SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Federal prosecutors have charged three women as part of California’s massive EDD fraud investigation.
Former EDD employee, Andrea Gervais of Roseville, is accused of filing 100 fake claims, including one in the name of a sitting United States Senator. In a separate scheme, an inmate and parolee in Central California are accused of submitting several fake claims under other inmates’ names.
Authorities say between the two schemes, the women bilked the government out of at least $400,000 and that some of the money went toward plastic surgery.
Gervais, 43, is accused of participating in a mail fraud scheme involving 100 fraudulent Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claims. At least 12 of the claims were reportedly processed and more than $200,000 in PUA benefits were paid out to Gervais’s Roseville address through Bank of America debit cards.
Officials say all of the fraudulent PUA claims from Gervais’s residence totaled at least $2 million.
An investigation started, officials said, when investigators discovered a PUA claim for $21,000 was processed for payment using the identity of a sitting U.S. Senator. Gervais was then reportedly caught on camera withdrawing cash from a Bank of America ATM using at least seven of the PUA debit cards, including one issued to the senator.
Gervais was arrested Tuesday on a federal complaint and appeared in court Wednesday. If convicted, she faces a maximum of 20 years in prison.
On Thursday, a federal grand jury in Fresno indicted inmate Sholanda Thomas, 36, and parolee Christina Smith, 37, in connection to a prison-based scheme out of the Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF) in Chowchilla. Both were indicted for conspiracy to commit mail fraud and aggravated identity theft charges for submitting several fraudulent EDD claims in Thomas’s and other CCWF inmates’ names.
According to court records, Thomas reportedly obtained names, dates of birth and social security numbers for inmates and gave the information to Smith to file claims. The claims falsely stated the inmates worked as hairstylists, barbers, and other occupations and were available to work, court documents revealed.
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Officials say the EDD and federal government lost more than $200,000 due to this fraud.
The Department of Justice claims Thomas and Smith used the unemployment money for their benefit, keeping Thomas’ share in a shoebox pending her release from prison. Smith reportedly got plastic surgery with the money.
If convicted, Thomas and Smith face up to 22 years in prison and fines.
Earlier this month, a state official said California sent out about $400 million in fraudulent unemployment benefit payments to state prisoners, nearly triple the amount initially disclosed.