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A former employee of the California Employment Development Department stands accused of allegedly ripping off the federally funded pandemic unemployment system to the tune of $200,000-plus, including filing a false claim in the name of Democrat U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
Arrested on Tuesday, December 15, the ex-employee, who was employed by the state agency for about eight years, had allegedly submitted in excess of 100 fake claims — with stolen personal info, and in so doing, received 21 grand in the name of Feinstein.
Eleven other bogus claims also allegedly made it through the system unnoticed at least initially, totaling $216,000. The money was allegedly sent to the suspect’s home in suburban Sacramento.
Reacting to this situation, a spokesman for Feinstein explained “The senator’s office is aware that an individual used the senator’s name — along with multiple others — to file fraudulent unemployment claims. The matter will be handled by law enforcement and the courts.”
Serving as an elected official in either chamber of Congress hardly constitutes heavy lifting, especially with staff doing virtually the work, but Feinstein, 87, a multi-millionaire, still has a job, although some far-left activists are trying to pressure her to step down. Including the high-profile, longtime lawmaker’s name in the alleged scam seems a particularly ineffective as a way to avoid scrutiny.
Fraud sleuths with the Bank of America, which administers the COVID-related program, prompted an investigation and alerted authorities after they flagged the sketchy Feinstein claim. “Investigators subsequently reviewed 44 ATM photos of [the suspect] using the Bank of America debit cards, including the card issued in the name of the senator,” the Los Angeles Times reported.
The suspect, which media outlets identify as Andrea M. Gervais, could face up to a maximum of 20 years in prison, plus a $250,000 fine for each federal count related to alleged mail fraud, if convicted in a court of law. After an initial hearing in federal court, Gervais was released Wednesday on a $50,000 bond.
“Gervais was fired by the agency in October 2018 after an internal investigation implicated her in the theft of a money order, according to a request for a search warrant for her house and car presented to a federal judge on Dec. 11,” the Times recalled.
Separately, a San Diego woman who worked as an EDD contractor over the summer faces federal charges for allegedly trying to orchestrate unemployment benefits fraud with her boyfriend, who is currently incarcerated for murder.
The suspect “allegedly obtained personal identifying information from California prisoners with help from her boyfriend, as well as stolen personal information on out-of-state residents, that she allegedly used to file fraudulent unemployment claims,” the Times detailed.
Bank of America estimates that unemployment fraud could be of epic proportions in California, totaling about $2 billion in ill-gotten gains.
Moreover, in a ten-year period, 16 former EDD employees have been convicted of fraud.
Parenthetically, back in October, a hip-hop artist who previously uploaded a rap video in which may or may not have bragged about becoming rich from allegedly or purportedly ripping off the EDD agency in an identity-theft-related unemployment benefits scam was arrested on federal charges.
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