On December 21st, 2021

California EDD Contract Employee Sentenced to 25 Months for Pandemic-Related Fraud California EDD Office of Investigations assisted with investigation

SAN DIEGO – On December 15, 2021, Nyika Gomez, 31, of San Diego, a former contract employee with the California Employment Development Department (EDD), was sentenced in federal court to 25 months in prison and ordered to pay $93,248 dollars in restitution in connection with a scheme to submit fraudulent pandemic unemployment insurance claims for California state prisoners.

“Investigators at California EDD have their work cut out for them, given the number of unscrupulous people who, through fraudulent means, helped themselves to financial assistance meant for so many individuals who suddenly found themselves without work due to the pandemic,” said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona.

As part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020, Congress provided new unemployment benefits for those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic who would not otherwise qualify for unemployment insurance. In California, the EDD administers unemployment insurance benefits. In Arizona, benefits are administered by the Arizona Department for Economic Security (AZDES).

According to her plea agreement, in July 2020, Gomez devised a scheme to defraud the EDD and AZDES by submitting Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claims for prisoners and other persons who were not eligible for such assistance, including making up false claims about their employment. Gomez submitted more than $214,344 in fraudulent claims and collected $93,248 on those claims. Gomez arranged for the stolen benefits – paid out in the form of a debit card – to be mailed directly to her residence, or to the residence of someone working with her. Gomez returned some of the proceeds to the prison inmates by transferring money to their prison accounts and kept some of the proceeds for herself.

The charges are the product of an investigation jointly undertaken by the:

  • S. Department of Labor,
  • Office of the Inspector General (DOL-OIG),
  • California Employment Development Department Office of Investigations (EDD OI),
  • United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS),
  • and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

 

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