California's unemployment benefits can be a lifeline for many workers who find themselves unemployed, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Increases in unemployment claims naturally result in increased unemployment fraud cases. According to the Department of Labor, an estimated three percent of unemployment claims in 2019 were fraudulent. That number has jumped to more than ten percent. But the Department of Justice, the U.S. Department of Labor, and the California Employment Development Department (EDD) have long taken fraudulent unemployment claims seriously.
Arkansas Woman Sentenced for Fraudulent Unemployment Claims
The U.S. Department of Justice recently announced the sentencing of an Arkansas woman, Deborah Hollimon, arrested with others for filing more than 100 fraudulent unemployment claims with California's EDD between September 2012 and September 2015. According to court documents, Hollimon filed more than 100 fraudulent unemployment claims through the California Employment Development Department using fictitious businesses.
Hollimon created the fictitious businesses with EDD and then submitted names as employees of the fake businesses. She then filed claims in her name and the names of the “employees,” who were victims of identity theft, to collect the benefits. Hollimon sought more than $880,000 in fraudulent benefits, and EDD paid her more than $569,000.
Special Agent-in-Charge of the Los Angeles Region for the U.S. Department of Labor Inspector General's Office, Quentin Heiden, stated:
Deborah Hollimon and her co-conspirators exploited our nation's unemployment insurance system by filing at least 100 fraudulent unemployment insurance claims in the names of identity theft victims. Today's sentencing affirms the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General's commitment to working with our federal and state law enforcement partners to investigate identity theft that adversely impacts the integrity of the [unemployment insurance] program.
Hollimon pleaded guilty to mail fraud and faced a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine. U.S. District Court Judge Troy Nunley sentenced her to three years and two months in prison and ordered her to pay $569,168 in restitution.
Hire a Skilled Federal Criminal Defense Attorney
If you're facing federal charges for unemployment fraud or identity theft, it's a serious matter. You need an experienced criminal defense attorney skilled in federal criminal litigation to evaluate your case for the best possible outcome. At Sigal Law Group, we've been successfully defending California clients in federal court for years, and we can help you too. Call us at 818-325-0570 to schedule your free consultation.