Pasadena man who bought Maserati with COVID relief money pleads guilty to fraud

A Pasadena man who used stolen identities to fraudulently obtain unemployment insurance benefits under the coronavirus federal relief act, which he later used to purchase a Maserati luxury SUV, pleaded guilty Tuesday to federal charges.

Robert Sloan Mateer, 32, entered his plea to charges of use of unauthorized access devices, possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and being a felon in possession of ammunition, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

U.S. District Judge Otis D. Wright II set sentencing for April 17 in downtown Los Angeles. The total maximum penalty Mateer faces for the three offenses is life imprisonment, a lifetime period of supervised release and a fine of $10.5 million, prosecutors said.

During a traffic stop in October 2020, Pasadena Police officers arrested Mateer and found inside his Maserati unemployment benefits debit cards, several other credit and debit cards, about $197,711 in cash, more than 85 grams of methamphetamine and a loaded Glock-type pistol with no serial number.

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Evidence gathered during the investigation determined that at least 14 of the 17 debit cards were loaded with at least $133,000 in unemployment insurance benefits, later determined to have been issued under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, and had been issued in the names of third parties, including identity theft victims.

The California Employment Development Department distributes unemployment insurance benefits under the CARES Act, which expanded unemployment benefits to cover those who were previously ineligible, including business owners, self-employed workers and independent contractors who were put out of business or significantly reduced their services because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Mateer admitted to obtaining the unemployment benefits debit cards by using "thousands" of identity profiles in his possession, that each debit card was loaded with $14,500, and that he used the fraudulently obtained unemployment benefits to purchase the Maserati, federal prosecutors said.

Mateer also admitted that he withdrew the $197,711 in cash found in his Maserati from ATMs across the Los Angeles area. Mateer also withdrew $13,840 from the EDD debit cards in his possession.