“We applaud the work being done by state and federal investigators to find, charge, and prosecute those who took advantage of the government’s attempt to quickly help families in need when the pandemic resulted in so much unemployment.” – CSLEA President Alan Barcelona
RIVERSIDE–On September 14, 2022, a San Bernardino County woman was arrested on a seven-count federal grand jury indictment alleging she fraudulently obtained more than $500,000 in pandemic-related unemployment insurance (UI) benefits by using the names of inmates in the California state prison system.
Cynthia Ann Hernandez, 32, a.k.a. “Cynthia Roberts,” of Victorville, is charged with four counts of mail fraud, one count of access device fraud in excess of $1,000, and two counts of aggravated identity theft.
According to the indictment, from June 2020 to August 2020, Hernandez filed with the California Employment Development Department (EDD) fraudulent applications for UI benefits in the names of persons incarcerated in the California state prison system.
Hernandez allegedly falsely stated on the UI benefits applications that the named claimants were individuals whose employment had been negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and were eligible for pandemic unemployment assistance under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Congress passed the CARES Act in March 2020, in part, to help individuals whose employment and finances were adversely affected by the pandemic.
The applications also falsely stated that the named claimants were eligible for the UI benefits and that they resided and worked in Los Angeles and Orange counties. EDD then authorized Bank of America to issue debit cards in the claimants’ names and they were mailed to Hernandez’s mailing address, according to the indictment. Once Hernandez allegedly received the debit cards, she used them to withdraw cash at ATMs and banking centers.
In total, Hernandez allegedly caused at least 29 fraudulent applications to be filed with EDD, resulting in losses to EDD and the United States Treasury of approximately $515,138.
This matter was investigated by the:
- United States Department of Labor – Office of Inspector General;
- California Employment Development Department – Investigation Division;
- Homeland Security Investigations;
- California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation;
- United States Department of Homeland Security – Office of Inspector General;
- United States Postal Inspection Service;
- United States Customs and Border Protection – Special Response Team.