Victorville woman arrested on charges alleging she used prisoner names to fraudulently obtain over $500,000 in COVID aid | USAO-CDCA

RIVERSIDE, CALIFORNIA — A San Bernardino County woman was arrested today on a seven-count federal grand jury indictment alleging she fraudulently owed more than $500,000 in unemployment insurance (UI) benefits related to the pandemic obtained by using the names of inmates held in the California state penitentiary system.

Cynthia Ann Hernandez, 32, aka “Cynthia Roberts”, of Victorville, has been taken into custody and is expected to appear tomorrow for her arraignment in US District Court in Riverside.

Hernandez faces four counts of mail fraud, one count of access device fraud totaling over $1,000 and two counts of aggravated identity theft.

According to the indictment filed Sept. 9, from June 2020 to August 2020, Hernandez submitted fraudulent claims for UI benefits to the California Employment Development Department (EDD) on behalf of individuals incarcerated in the California state prison system. EDD administers the California Unemployment Insurance program.

Hernandez allegedly falsely stated on the UI benefit claims that the named claimants were individuals whose employment had been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and who were eligible for pandemic unemployment assistance under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Congress passed the CARES Act in March 2020, in part to help individuals whose employment and finances have been impacted by the pandemic.

The applications also falsely stated that the named applicants were entitled to UI benefits and that they resided and worked in Los Angeles and Orange counties. EDD then authorized Bank of America to issue debit cards in the plaintiffs’ names and, according to the indictment, were mailed to Hernandez’s mailing address. After Hernandez allegedly received the debit cards, she used them to withdraw cash from ATMs and banking centers.

In all, Hernandez allegedly caused at least 29 fraudulent claims to be filed with EDD, resulting in approximately $515,138 in losses to EDD and the US Treasury.

An indictment contains allegations that a defendant committed a crime. Everyone accused is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

This matter was investigated by the United States Department of Labor – Office of Inspector General; the California Employment Development Department – Investigation Division; Homeland Security Investigations; the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation; the US Department of Homeland Security – Office of the Inspector General; the United States Postal Inspection Service; and United States Customs and Border Protection – Special Response Team.

Assistant US Attorney Solomon Kim of the Terrorism and Export Crimes Division is prosecuting the case.

Anyone with information about suspected fraud related to COVID-19 may report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud hotline at (866) 720-5721 or the NCDF web complaint form at: https: //www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.

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