“As a result of this investigation by California Department of Justice special agents, the victims of this scheme will begin to be reimbursed for what was taken from them.” – CSLEA President Alan Barcelona
On August 9, 2021, the California Attorney General’s Office announced the plea and sentencing of Jawuan Antonio Gibson for operating an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) fraud scheme throughout California. Gibson, who was arrested in 2019, pleaded guilty to:
- four counts of grand theft,
- one count of possessing access card making equipment,
- two counts of accessing a computer to commit fraud
- and admitted a special allegation that through his scheme he caused more than $500,000 in loss.
In 2019, California Department of Justice special agents seized $950,000 in cash during a search of Gibson, his hotel residence, and his car.
Gibson was sentenced to 48 months in state prison and ordered to pay $883,529 in restitution. Gibson’s restitution will be returned to the California Department of Social Services which will then identify and reimburse the victims of his scheme.
“Targeting vulnerable Californians who are trying to provide the basic necessities for themselves and their families is a heinous crime,” said Attorney General Rob Bonta. “Millions of Californians rely on food and cash aid, and no one should have to worry that they won’t be able to feed their family or put a roof over their heads because of one person’s criminal act.”
California’s EBT system is used to provide public assistance benefits, such as cash and food aid, to individuals and families in need.
Between early 2017 and May 2019, Gibson targeted hundreds of victims in dozens of California counties by sending fraudulent phishing text messages asking for their personal information – such as birth date, social security number, and the PIN associated with their EBT cards – in order to verify their benefits. Once the victims provided the information, Gibson used it to create counterfeit duplicates of their EBT cards and then used the duplicates to withdraw funds from their accounts via ATM machines.
When Gibson was arrested in 2019, agents seized $950,000 in cash, two cash counting machines, multiple computers, ATM card readers, encoders, ATM cards, SIM cards, and prepaid phone cards.
The arrest and charges were the result of an investigation by the California Department of Justice’s White Collar Investigation Team and the Sacramento County Department of Human Assistance. The California Department of Justice’s eCrime Unit prosecuted the case.
A copy of the second amended information is here.