On October 12th, 2022

Bakersfield Relatives Plead Guilty to Fraud Schemes The California Employment Development Department assisted with investigation

“Thank you to the investigators who are working to identify, investigate, arrest, and assist with the prosecutions of individuals who unlawfully obtained benefits meant to assist families struggling during sudden unemployment caused by the pandemic.”  - CSLEA President Alan Barcelona

FRESNO—On October 11, 2022, Charles Abieanga, 31, Viviana Cervantes, 23, and Simon Abieanga, 28, all of Bakersfield, pleaded guilty to separate fraud charges.

According to court documents, Charles Abieanga and Viviana Cervantes, husband and wife, each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft for their roles in two different fraud schemes. The first scheme involved submitting false claims to the California Employment Development Department and obtaining benefits associated with those claims. The second scheme involved impersonating a supplier of personal protective equipment (PPE) and defrauding hospitals by selling non-existent medical supplies including surgical gowns and N-95 protective masks. Charles Abieanga also pleaded guilty separately to a scheme involving the sale of non-existent pets, horses, and vehicles to victims online. Charles Abieanga and Viviana Cervantes’s conduct caused actual losses of more than $210,000.

Simon Abieanga, Charles’s brother, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud for his role in a two separate, but similar, fraud schemes. The first scheme involved submitting false claims to the California Employment Development Department and obtaining benefits associated with those claims. Simon Abieanga’s second scheme involved the sale of non-existent pets, horses, and vehicles to victims online. Simon Abieanga’s conduct caused actual losses of more than $105,000.

This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Secret Service, the California Employment Development Department, and the Bakersfield Police Department.

The brothers are scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Ana de Alba Jan. 17, 2023, and Cervantes is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 23, 2023. Charles Abieanga and Viviana Cervantes face a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the conspiracy to commit wire fraud and a mandatory two years in prison consecutive to any other sentence for the aggravated identity theft. Simon Abieanga faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The actual sentences, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.

 

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