Five Arrested by Sunnyvale authorities in unemployment benefits fraud case

Five Arrested by Sunnyvale authorities in unemployment benefits fraud case
Photo Credit: Sunnyvale DPS/Twitter
By Wesley Severson - Published on December 04, 2020.

The Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety announced on Twitter that it recently busted a crew of five suspects who they say ripped off at least 100 people for a million dollars in fraudulent unemployment benefit payments.

Investigators say it all started with a follow-up to a burglary investigation in mid-November surrounding 35-year-old San Jose resident George Ramirez who was arrested at the Larkspur Landing Hotel in Sunnyvale.

Inside his room, investigators say they found stolen debit and credit cards, stolen mail, and other personal information from people and homes across Santa Clara County.

After more investigating, detectives say they were able to uncover an entire Employment Development Department (EDD) benefits fraud ring involving Ramirez and 4 other suspects. 4 out 5 of the suspects are on active parole

Investigators say the 5-person crew used the personal information from the stolen items to create fake EDD profiles in the victims’ names. The crew was able to get their hands on a million dollars in taxpayer money.

After more searches, investigators say they recovered other stolen items including a motorcycle, drugs, ammunition, and several guns including a shotgun, an AR-15, and two pistols. One of the handguns was stolen in a residential burglary. 

Sunnyvale DPS also says they found stolen computers and a device used to create bogus credit cards which leads detectives to believe there could be thousands of more victims.

"It's a big deal now this EDD fraud. They're creating these fictitious accounts with EDD then having money funneled through different accounts and mailed to different addresses," Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety Captain Dan Pistor told KPIX.  

The case is another embarrassment for the EDD which got overloaded with claims at the start of the pandemic and had to hire thousands of employees to play catch up. They are still way behind processing claims.

There have also been several known scams to hit the EDD which essentially is stealing away millions of dollars from the people who really need it. 

More and more of the scams are involving current and former county jail and state prison inmates. Just days ago the Mercury News reported that more than 70 jail inmates from Monterey County were somehow able to receive unemployment benefits. This was part of a larger, widespread trend in unemployment-benefit fraud this year in which individuals in multiple counties have been using the names of convicted felons, including famous death row inmates, in order to receive jobless benefits.

That group of cases is massive, involving tens of thousands of state prison inmates and more than $1 billion dollars in stolen benefit money.

Aside from all the scams, the EDD still continues to struggle even handling the load of claims coming in each week. Each day the department receives hundreds of complaints about slow response times and botched paperwork. 

Hopefully, the EDD gets its act together since millions of people are depending on the agency to make ends meet.