The Dept. of Justice arrested two of five defendants in an alleged fraud for unemployment benefits and identity theft using personal information of workers throughout California. Fraudulent unemployment benefits totaled more than $800,000 with more than 250 stolen identities, the DOJ alleged.

The indictment charged: Pamela Emanuel, 57, of San Jose; Gregory Lee, 55, of Antioch; Russell White III, 35, of Turlock; Brittany Maunakea, 27, of Turlock; and Sergio Reyna, 24, of Stockton with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and 16 counts of mail fraud. Emanuel and Lee are also charged with separate counts of aggravated identity theft. Emanuel and Reyna were arrested May 18.

Between April 2013 and July 2016, defendants sought to defraud the state of California, the DOJ said. Emanuel, who worked as a tax-compliance representative for the California Employment Development Department, used her position to access personal identifying information of workers throughout California. She gave that information to other members of the group, who filed fraudulent unemployment claims in the names of unknowing victims.

When Emanuel contacted EDD to pose as a laid-off employee, she used a Virtual Private Network to mask her IP address in efforts to hide her identity, the DOJ said. When defendants filed claims with EDD, they provided names of fake businesses as the claimants’ last employers so the victims’ true employers were not immediately notified that a claim was filed.

The case involved investigation by the U.S. Dept. of Labor, Office of Inspector General, Federal Bureau of Investigation and California Employment Development Department.

If convicted, defendants face a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count. Emanuel and Lee also face statutory mandatory minimum penalty of two years in prison for aggravated identity theft, which would run consecutive to any other sentence imposed.

The charges are allegations; defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty in court beyond a reasonable doubt.

James Dunn covers technology, biotech, law, the food industry, and banking and finance. Reach him at: james.dunn@busjrnl.com or 707-521-4257