“This case is a shocking example of the way unscrupulous individuals unlawfully took from a program designed to help so many families that suddenly found themselves without an income due to the pandemic. Local, state and federal investigators will likely be investigating this type of unemployment fraud for months and years to come.” – CSLEA President Alan Barcelona
SAN FRANCISCO – On September 23, 2021, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California announced it filed a criminal complaint against Ratha Yin, Amanda Yin, and Steven Mavromatis, charging them with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud for their respective roles in a scheme to defraud the State of California by filing unemployment claims in the names of other people.
According to the criminal complaint indictment, Ratha Yin, 34, was an inmate at Centinela State Prison located in Imperial County on October 16, 2020, when he and his cellmate were found to be in possession of two cell phones and two SD cards. The contraband electronics contained information about communications Ratha Yin and his co-defendants—his wife, Amanda Yin, 31, of Indio, and Stephen Mavromatis, 26, of San Leandro, as well as with the California Employment Development Department (EDD) and the Bank of America.
Subsequent investigation uncovered evidence that Ratha Yin used at least one of the cell phones to communicate from prison with Mavromatis to file fraudulent claims for unemployment insurance made available through EDD under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act of 2020 (“CARES Act”). Amanda Yin allegedly knew about the fraud, assisted with the collection of the proceeds, and disposed of some of the ill-gotten gains.
The complaint alleges that the defendants accessed the dark web to obtain personally identifying information for hundreds of individuals and then created email accounts for many of the victims to be used in connection with the scheme. Ratha Yin and Mavromatis then used the personal information and emails to file fraudulent unemployment claims. The complaint explains that when the EDD issues unemployment insurance benefits under the unemployment insurance program, it contracts with Bank of America which sends the recipient a pre-loaded Bank of America debit card with a set cash balance. Ratha Yin and Mavromatis allegedly used this system by requesting benefits and requesting the EDD to mail the prepaid debit cards to a post office box controlled by Mavromatis. The complaint estimates that an analysis revealed that of 91 fraudulent claims filed by Ratha Yin and Mavromatis at least $1.9 million of cash withdrawals were made from fraudulently obtained debit cards. In addition, the complaint alleges Ratha Yin and other co-conspirators filed claims and withdrew at least an additional $132,000 from accounts developed using similar methods.
The complaint further alleges that Amanda Yin collected funds from Mavramatis, assisted in deciding where and how to deposit the funds, and deposited some of the illegally obtained funds in accounts in her own name and in a joint account with Ratha Yin. In addition, Amanda Yin allegedly used the proceeds of the scheme to purchase personal items; for example, according to the complaint, Amanda Yin used a straw purchaser to obtain a $71,000 Audi sport utility vehicle and, in May of 2021, she allegedly used the proceeds for a down payment on a home in Indio.