SUNNYVALE (CBS SF) — Five suspects were arrested in connection with bilking approximately $1 million from the California Employment Development Department (EDD), the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety announced Thursday.

The department said it identified at least 100 potential victims of EDD fraud and there could be thousands more after officers discovered a treasure trove of evidence in the hotel room of a burglary suspect.

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On Nov. 16, officers from the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety Burglary Suppression Detail (BSD) visited the hotel room of 35-year-old San Jose resident George Ramirez. They were following up on a burglary where Social Security cards, credit cards, utility bills, and personal checks were stolen.

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At Ramirez’s hotel room, officers discovered a large amount of stolen mail from homes all over Santa Clara County. Among items retrieved inside that hotel room were 15 EDD Bank of America debit cards, authorities told KPIX 5. 

Using this evidence, the BSD spent the next two weeks investigating and uncovered a EDD fraud ring involving Ramirez and four others.

The suspects stole mail and personal identification from local residents and used the information to sign up for EDD benefits.

“They’re creating these fictitious accounts with EDD, then having money funneled through different accounts and mailed to different addresses,” Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety Spokesperson Dan Pistore told KPIX 5.

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KPIX 5 has talked to more than 70 people since September, who say they’ve had thousands stolen from their EDD Bank of America debit cards.

“My landlord is still demanding her rent and she has every right to.  But what am I supposed to do?  $1,000 was just taken away from me and no one knows when it’s going to come back. It’s pretty unfair,” said Erica Young.

“My rent is a thousand dollars and we’re a small family and both me and my partner. We have decreased hours or lost their jobs since March. So you know we’re in a predicament now,” said Tina Lee.

The Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety then arrested Ramirez and the four other suspects. Officers also confiscated stolen items such as a stolen motorcycle, two handguns (one of which was stolen in residential burglary), a shotgun, AR-15 assault rifle parts, ammunition, illegal narcotics, stolen computers and a device used to create fictitious credit cards.

Along with Ramirez, the other suspects have been identified as Christopher Ellingsen, Arpresha Dunn, Samuel Ellingsen and Robert Briston. Authorities said four out of the five suspects were on active parole.

Anyone with information regarding this case was asked to contact Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety Detective Barron Renzi at (408) 730-7712 or brenzi@sunnyvale.ca.gov.

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To report EDD fraud please call 1-800-229-6297. Visit EDD to learn more about EDD fraud and how to protect yourself from becoming victim to it: https://bit.ly/3lCERKf.