Federal prosecutors on Friday announced charges against a Pasadena man accused of using stolen identities to obtain state unemployment benefits from the CARES Act to purchase a luxury Maserati SUV.
Robert Sloan Mateer, 30, was named in a five-count indictment from a federal grand jury on Dec. 2, according to a U.S. Department of Justice news release.
He’s been charged with the following: aggravated identity theft; possession of at least 15 unauthorized access devices with intent to defraud; possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine; having a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime; and being a felon in possession of ammunition, the news release stated.
The investigation began on Oct. 1, after Mateer was pulled over in the Maserati by officers with the Pasadena Police Department. During the traffic stop, officers searched the SUV and found 17 debit cards loaded with unemployment benefits, other credit and debit cards, nearly $200,000 in cash, more than 85 grams of meth, and a loaded gun that had no serial number, according to the affidavit supporting the criminal complaint.
Federal prosecutors allege that at least $133,000 in unemployment insurance benefits were found on 14 of the debit cards. Investigators later determined the funds had been obtained through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, which Congress passed in March.
The benefits were distributed by the California Employment Development Department, and some of the cards were found to have been issued in other people’s names, including some who were victims of identity theft, according to the DOJ news release.
Mateer was arrested after the traffic stop and taken into federal custody about three weeks later.
The affidavit states that the defendant admitted to using “thousands” of identity profiles he possessed to obtain the jobless benefits cards, that each debit card came with about $14,500 on it, and that he purchased the luxury SUV with fraudulently obtained jobless benefits.
Additionally, Mateer admitted that the approximately $197,711 in cash found in the Maserati was money he had withdrawn from ATMs throughout the Los Angeles area, according to the affidavit. Between Sept. 19 and 25, he also allegedly withdrew approximately $13,480 from EDD debit cards that were in his possession.
Mateen was detained pending trial, according to prosecutors.
He faces a statutory mandatory minimum prison sentence of 17 years and a statutory maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted as charged.
The United States Postal Inspection Service investigated the case.