RIVERSIDE, California – A San Bernardino County woman was arrested today in an indictment before a federal grand jury on seven counts, alleging she fraudulently obtained more than $500,000 in benefits unemployment insurance (UI) claims related to the pandemic using the names of inmates locked up in the California state prison system.
Cynthia Ann Hernandez, 32, aka “Cynthia Roberts,” of Victorville, has been taken into custody and is scheduled to appear for arraignment tomorrow in United States District Court in Riverside.
Hernandez is charged with four counts of mail fraud, one count of access device fraud over $1,000 and two counts of aggravated impersonation.
According to the indictment released on September 9, from June 2020 to August 2020, Hernandez filed fraudulent claims with the California Employment Development Department (EDD) for unemployment insurance benefits on behalf of individuals incarcerated in the prison system. of the State of California. EDD administers California’s unemployment insurance benefits program.
Hernandez allegedly falsely stated on applications for unemployment insurance benefits that the named claimants were people whose jobs had been negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and were eligible for pandemic unemployment assistance in under the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act. Congress passed the CARES Act in March 2020, in part to help people whose jobs and finances have been affected by the pandemic.
The applications also incorrectly stated that the named applicants were eligible for unemployment insurance 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 was sent to Hernandez’s mailing address, according to the indictment. Once Hernandez received the debit cards, she used them to withdraw cash from ATMs and banking centers.
In total, Hernandez allegedly caused at least 29 fraudulent claims to be filed with EDD, resulting in losses to EDD and the US Treasury of approximately $515,138.
An indictment contains allegations that an accused has committed a crime. All accused are presumed innocent until their guilt has been proven beyond reasonable doubt.
This matter was investigated by the United States Department of Labor – Office of Inspector General; California Department of Employment Development – Investigation Division; homeland security investigations; the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation; United States Department of Homeland Security – Office of Inspector General; the United States Postal Inspection Service; and United States Customs and Border Protection – Special Response Team.
Assistant United States Attorney Solomon Kim of the Terrorism and Export Crimes Section is prosecuting the case.
Anyone with information about alleged attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Disaster Fraud Center hotline at (866) 720 -5721 or via the NCDF online complaint form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.