MONTEREY COUNTY - On February 2, 2021, the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office announced that seven people have been charged with unemployment insurance fraud. Five are Monterey County jail inmates:
- Tony Nguyen Tran,
- Lanh Van Truong,
- Juan Castillo Lopez,
- Zachary Don Dobbs
- and Lenny Westley Sanks.
Two people, Reynaldo Garcia Gomez and Nicole Ramona Sanks, were not incarcerated when the fraud occurred.
The defendants are charged with felony counts of conspiracy, making fraudulent statements in unemployment insurance applications, and two counts of money laundering. Two of the defendants have prior serious or violent strike allegations. One of the defendants is pending trial for murder. The total fraud involved in this case exceeds $40,000.
“California EDD’s goal was to expedite assistance to those whose work was eliminated when California initially shut down,” said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona. “The intention was good, but those with bad intentions took advantage as standard application vetting practices were dispensed with in order to get financial assistance to families in need. EDD investigators are assisting local and federal agencies in identifying and charging those who fraudulently applied for and received unemployment benefits.”
The Monterey County District Attorney’s Office expects many more arrests and charges as its multi-agency task force led by the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office and the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office continues investigations.
In July of last year, the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office and Salinas Police Department learned of widespread fraud involving inmates at the Monterey County Jail applying for and receiving unemployment benefits for periods during which they were incarcerated. Persons in jail or prison are not “available to work” and are therefore ineligible for unemployment assistance.
District Attorney Jeannine M. Pacioni and Sheriff Steve Bernal formed a task force to investigate the fraud. The Monterey Police Department, Marina Police Department, and CSUMB Police joined the task force. The task force, with assistance from state EDD and federal investigators, continues to investigate hundreds of suspects, both jail inmates and their outside accomplices.