“The investigations into illegally obtained unemployment insurance benefits is a must following the pandemic, as dishonest individuals took advantage of funds meant for workers who suddenly found themselves unemployed. While the goal was to get these funds to those in need as quickly as possible, unscrupulous individuals saw this as an opportunity to go undetected while stealing public funds, which is stealing from all of us.” – CSLEA President Alan Barcelona
SANTA ANA– On January 23, 2023, an Orange County man pleaded guilty to fraudulently applying for more than $1.2 million in COVID-19 pandemic unemployment insurance benefits – and receiving more than $400,000 of the same – by using the stolen identities of two dozen victims.
Nhan Hoang Pham, 36, of Santa Ana, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in relation to benefits connected to a presidentially declared emergency.
According to his plea agreement, from July 2020 to April 2021, Pham acquired without authorization or permission the personal identifying information – including names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers – of people living in California, Texas and Michigan, people he had never met.
Pham then created and submitted fraudulent online applications to the California Employment Development Department (EDD), which administers the state’s unemployment insurance program. Pham’s fraudulent applications sought federally funded pandemic benefits intended for the jobless and requested they be sent to Anaheim addresses that, in fact, Pham controlled.
Upon receipt of the applications, EDD transmitted the claimant information to Bank of America, which caused the issuance and mailing of debit cards to the Anaheim addresses that Pham controlled.
Pham then took the fraudulently obtained debit cards and used them to withdraw money at ATMs throughout Orange County.
Pham tried to obtain approximately $1,255,350 through fraudulent applications containing the personal identifying information of 24 identity theft victims. He received approximately $408,496.
Pham is scheduled for a May 22 sentencing hearing, at which time Pham will face a statutory maximum sentence of 30 years in federal prison.
The United States Secret Service; the United States Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General; the California Employment Development Department Investigation Division; the Orange County District Attorney’s Office Bureau of Investigation; and the Santa Ana Police Department investigated this matter.