SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) — An inmate at a Northern California prison along with three other people have been indicted on federal charges involving $1.2 million in fraudulent unemployment insurance claims from the state’s Employment Development Department (EDD), authorities announced Thursday.
RELATED: KPIX EDD Fraud Special Section
A 16-count indictment was unsealed on Wednesday charging the four with filing fake unemployment and pandemic assistance claims, obtaining EDD debit cards and withdrawing the funds from ATMs between June 2020 and January 2021, said Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California Phillip Talbert in a statement.
A federal grand jury returned the indictment on May 13.
One of those indicted, 47-year-old Kenneth Ray Hawkins of Tracy, was an inmate at the Deuel Vocational Institution in Tracy. The other suspects were identified as Jacqueline Marie Marquez, 34, formerly of Las Vegas; Alyssa Marie Jones, 32, of Barstow; and Ebony Chanel Jones, 20, of Barstow.
According to the indictment, Hawkins collected personal identity information, including Social Security numbers, of prison inmates and other individuals, using the information to file fraudulent EDD claims from his jail cell using an unauthorized cellphone. The applications directed the benefits – in the form of Bank of America EDD debit cards – to be mailed to addresses under the control of the co-conspirators.
Marquez, Alyssa Jones and Ebony Jones then obtained EDD debit cards and withdrew the funds from ATMs throughout California for the benefits of the four conspirators, according to the indictment. Out of the $1.2 million in fraudulent claims filed, the EDD paid out over $900,000 on the dozens of approved claims.
Each of the four faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each of the 16 counts if convicted.
Alyssa Jones and Ebony Jones have made an initial appearances in federal court and released on bond ahead of their next appearance. Marquez has not yet made her initial appearance in federal court, while Hawkins remains in state prison for an unrelated conviction.