SACRAMENTO – On March 3, 2021, Robert Joseph Maher, 42, formerly of Stockton, pleaded guilty to single counts of mail fraud and aggravated identify theft in connection with an unemployment insurance benefits fraud and identity theft scheme.
According to court documents, from at least November 2010 through February 2018, Maher participated in a scheme to defraud the State of California Employment Development Department (EDD) by filing fraudulent claims for unemployment insurance benefits. In furtherance of this scheme, Maher and his co-defendant, Michael Herron II, also of Stockton, created fictitious companies and fictitious employees by using the real identities of people with and without their knowledge. They then filed claims with EDD, falsely stating that the employees had been laid-off or fired. The unemployment benefits were deposited onto debit cards that were mailed to addresses controlled by Maher, Herron, or their associates.
“Unemployment benefits are not there for the taking by unscrupulous individuals,” said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona. “Investigators will catch up with those stealing from this fund, and this case is an example of that.”
In one instance, Maher and Herron electronically filed an unemployment insurance claim in the name of an identity-theft victim. Maher knew that the victim was a real person because the claim listed the victim’s correct date of birth and social security number. The claim also listed Maher’s address in Stockton as the claimant’s address, which caused a bank to mail an EDD debit card in the victim’s name to Maher’s address. Maher and Herron then transferred the card’s benefits to Maher’s personal bank account. Maher and Herron also used the victim’s name to register another fictitious business entity that was used in the fraud scheme. In all, Maher and Herron filed at least 72 fraudulent claims for unemployment insurance benefits, seeking a total of $739,535 in fraudulent claims to EDD, of which EDD paid out approximately $609,335. As part of his plea agreement, Maher has agreed to pay full restitution to victims of his offenses.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Labor - Office of Inspector General, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the California Employment Development Department’s Investigation Division.
On March 26, 2019, Herron pleaded guilty to similar counts of mail fraud and aggravated identity theft and, on June 25, 2019, was sentenced to six years and three months in prison.
Maher is scheduled to be sentenced on June 8th. Maher faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the mail fraud count, and a mandatory two-year consecutive sentence and $250,000 fine for the aggravated identity theft count.