Three Prince George’s County men are charged with stealing more than $1.4 million in unemployment benefits from several states, including Maryland, reports Thecitypulsenews.
According to court documents unsealed in California, the three Nigerian nationals filed for unemployment benefits from four states, all using two addresses in Hyattsville, Maryland.
Bank of America records show 175 prepaid cards worth more than $1.4 million total — $158,000 of which came from Maryland — were sent to those addresses.
According to the court documents, investigators said surveillance pictures from various ATMs around Maryland show people matching the suspects’ descriptions depositing money from the Bank of America cards.
According to another source, Federal agents say they have broken up an unemployment insurance fraud ring based in Maryland that targeted California and numerous other states with more than $2.6 million in claims.
The suspects, at least one of whom is a Nigerian citizen, allegedly used a Hyattsville, Maryland, apartment address to collect $1.4 million in unemployment benefits from California, Arizona, Maryland and North Carolina, with $1.2 million of that coming from the scandal-plagued Employment Development Department in California, according to court records unsealed Wednesday morning in Sacramento.
More than 200 claims were filed with California’s EDD system listing a single address on 75th Avenue in Hyattsville, and EDD approved payments for 97 of the claims, court records say.
“According to an Internet search, this address appears to be an apartment in the Overland Gardens apartment complex, which advertises two- and three-bedroom units,” an affidavit filed by John C. Collins, a special agent for the U.S. Department of Labor, said. “Based on the size of the apartment, the investigation has concluded that a high number of UI applications associated with this address is unreasonable, and thus an indicator of fraudulent activity.
“(Bank of America) records show that 142 UI claim profiles using the 75th Avenue apartment address issued a total of 175 prepaid cards from the states of Arizona, California, Maryland, and North Carolina.”
Unemployment insurance applications also were filed for that address in Hawaii, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Texas, Washington, and West Virginia, court records say.
A criminal complaint for conspiracy to commit wire fraud names three Maryland residents — Quazeem Owolabi Adeyinka, Ayodeji Jonathan Sangode and Olamide Yusuf Bakare. Court papers say Adeyinka is a Nigerian citizen who reported losing his passport in December 2019.
The alleged scheme involved filing unemployment applications for individuals stating that they had lost jobs as an accountant, dance therapist, computer consultant, librarian or other occupations, and used untraceable internet protocol addresses, court records say.
But federal investigators began to take notice after EDD began to crack down on multiple claims from the same address, something that occurred just before California prosecutors revealed that EDD had become the target of a multi-billion dollar fraud by prison inmates, international scammers and con artists taking advantage of the flood of COVID-19 funds being sent out during the pandemic.
An investigator who called one of the individuals named as an applicant — identified as “J.F.” in court papers and named as an administrative accountant — said they live in Illinois and had never filed for California EDD benefits, court papers say.
“J.F. also told me that he or she was not familiar with the 75th Avenue apartment and has never worked as an administrative accountant,” court papers say. ‘Furthermore, J.F. stated that he or she did not authorize anyone to file a UI claim in her name.”
Like other EDD fraud probes — including one involving a former EDD worker who filed a claim in the name of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. — investigators collected ATM surveillance photos from bank machines where Bank of America debt cards were used, court papers say.
Photos collected from various ATMs in Maryland appeared to show the suspects withdrawing cash using the debit cards, court records say.