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Three charged in prison-based COVID-19 unemployment benefits scheme

On Thursday, July 15, a grand jury returned an indictment against three defendants for a scheme to submit over $1.4 million in fraudulent unemployment insurance claims in other inmates’ identities to the California Employment Development Department (EDD), Acting U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.

The indictment charges Daryol Richmond, 30; Telvin Breaux, 29; and Holly White, 30, with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and aggravated identity theft. Richmond and Breaux are inmates at the Kern Valley State Prison and California Correctional Institute, respectively. White resides in Los Angeles. The indictment was unsealed today following White’s arrest.

According to court documents, the underlying applications for the claims falsely stated that the inmates worked within the prescribed period as clothing merchants, handymen, and other jobs, and were available to work. To avoid detection, the defendants created fictitious email accounts and used different physical addresses throughout Southern California for the fraudulent claims. In some cases, they paid family members and associates up to $1,000 to use their physical addresses. The actual loss to the EDD and United States is over $270,000.

This case is the product of an investigation by the FBI and EDD. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph Barton and Melanie Alsworth are prosecuting the case.

If convicted of the conspiracy to commit mail fraud, the defendants each face a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. If convicted of the aggravated identity theft, they each face a mandatory two-year consecutive sentence. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after considering any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account several variables. The charges are only allegations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

This article was released by the United States Department of Justice.