Sasha Lizette Jimenez, 26, was found guilty of using stolen identities to fraudulently apply for over $2.8 million in unemployment insurance from the California Employment Development Department. / US Dept. of Justice
RIVERSIDE COUNTY, Calif. - A Riverside County woman who was found guilty of using stolen identities to fraudulently apply for over $2.8 million in unemployment insurance from the California Employment Development Department was sentenced Monday.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 26-year-old Sasha Lizette Jimenez was sentenced to nearly 3.5 years in federal prison and ordered to pay $2,304,203 in restitution to the EDD.
Jimenez pleaded guilty on May 22 to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and admitted that she fraudulently obtained UI benefits from the EDD, including Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits intended for individuals who were unemployed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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As part of the two-year scheme that began at the beginning of the pandemic, Jimenez and her co-conspirators obtained stolen personal identifying information (PII) – sometimes from the dark web – and used those stolen identities to apply for UI benefits, officials said.
The PII was stolen from victims who did not live in California, were dead, or were otherwise not eligible for UI benefits, including pandemic benefits.
In total, at least $2,804,508 in fraudulent unemployment benefits were issued to the fraud suspects – which were disbursed via EDD debit accounts – and at least $2,304,203 was withdrawn from those accounts.
"[B]ank records show that in 2020, an EDD card in the name of victim S.S. was used to purchase luxury jewelry from Peter Marco, a Beverly Hills jewelry business frequented by [Jimenez]," prosecutors noted.
Jimenez's boyfriend, 26-year-old Meshach Samuels, who also participated in the EDD fraud scheme, was sentenced in October to 7.5 years in federal prison.
If you'd like to report allegations of fraud involving COVID-19, you can report it to the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at (866) 720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form.