Alleged Unemployment Benefit Fraudsters Created Fake Businesses to Claim Over $1 Million

Eight people were arrested on Tuesday, accused of making up fake businesses to claim unemployment benefits worth over $1 million.

The individuals are alleged to have operated over a three-year period to swindle the California state of $1,106,282 in total unemployment insurance benefits by making up businesses that don't exist, including cleaning services and boutique stores.

The people involved in the indictment are accused of using the names of prison inmates as fake employees of their phoney companies, in order to collect benefits.

The defendants are each charged with one count of aggravated identity theft and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The individuals could each face a total of 22 years in federal prison.

Six of the defendants are related, including Donna Givens, Givens' niece Catrina Gipson, Givens' daughters Evelyn Taylor, Latrice Taylor, Raschell Taylor, and the son of Givens, Laron Taylor. The other two named in the indictment are Bianka Logie and Vernisha Jolivet.

Post office boxes were allegedly opened for all the fake businesses, which include Latasha's Devining Cleaning Service, Charm Boutique, and Infinite Cleaning Service.

Puneet V. Kakkar of the International Narcotics, Money Laundering, and Racketeering Section is the prosecuting attorney in this case.

Unemployment benefit fraud is when people claim benefits that they are not entitled to by deceiving the state, for example when someone has filed for unemployment while receiving income.

Individuals can also be prosecuted for unemployment benefits fraud if they are living in one state and claiming unemployment benefits in another state, or when an individual is not actively searching for work.

It is also considered unemployment benefit fraud if you lie about the reason you lost your job. If you quit you are not eligible for unemployment, but if you were fired for economic reasons you may be eligible.

Companies can also be prosecuted for lying about why an individual is no longer working for them, which may affect unemployment benefits.

Unemployment claims have surged during the coronavirus pandemic as businesses struggle to make ends meet. In some states more than 20 percent of the workforce has filed claims.

The average weekly benefit payment in the United States is around $370, while the average weekly wage in the United States is around $970. Some states have recently borrowed from the Federal Reserve to help pay out the inordinate amount of recent benefits claims.

One Million Dollars
Illustration of what one million dollars in twenty dollar bills looks like, inside the Federal Reserve Bank Of Chicago. Raymond Boyd//Getty Images