From Stealing Inmate Identity to Inmate  

Sad fired businessman taking away his belongings from the financial district

Paris Thomas, 33, of San Bernardino, Calif., has been charged for collecting $477,000 in unemployment benefits on behalf of California prison inmates. Thomas filed claims on their behalf, stating the prisoners were unemployed due to the pandemic. (Keep in mind that prison inmates are unemployed and serving time because they committed a crime. They can’t collect unemployment benefits.)

Thomas was arrested in April 2021 for filing claims for 15 prisoners between June and December 2020. Some of the claims requested more than $20,000 in benefits. (This fraudster was hoping that no one would cross reference the fraudulent unemployment claims with California’s list of prisoners.)

Investigators found a debit card issued by California’s Employment Development Department during a search of Thomas’ home. (I’m guessing she will soon have to get acquainted with a new home, possibly a 6×8 cell.) They also found a note detailing the personal information of over 40 inmates who were a part of the scheme. (There’s something to be said for having and regularly using a shredder to get rid of documents you don’t want anyone to see.)

Alongside Thomas, two other women pleaded guilty for committing unemployment fraud. Sequoia Edwards, 35, and Mireya Ramos, 42, were a part of the scheme to unlawfully collect $1.2 million in unemployment benefits. In total, the three women filed claims under more than 100 names, many of which were California prisoners.

Edwards filed nearly 30 fraudulent claims, six of which used California prison inmate’s identities. Edward’s inmate cousin allegedly provided Edwards with the personal information of other inmates. (Family by blood, partners in crime by choice.) Edwards admitted to filing a total of $456,000 in false claims and receiving state-issued debit cards. An additional $45,000 in cash was discovered in Edwards’ home. (I wonder if the cash was stuffed under her mattress.)

Ramos submitted 37 fraudulent claims. Like the others, many of these claims were also under the names of prison inmates in California who Ramos classified as having lost their jobs due to a pandemic.  Ramos obtained the prisoners’ information from her boyfriend who was sentenced to life in prison. (The couple thought they were clever in their scheming. But they’ll have to be even more creative in brainstorming prison date ideas.) Ramos collected $353,532 between June and January of 2020.

Each woman could face up to 30 years in prison if found guilty. (I bet they are wondering if the crime was really worth the consequence of possibly serving time. We all know the answer to that question.)

Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from an article, “Inland Empire trio plead guilty in $1.2-million COVID-19 unemployment fraud,” published by California News Times in June, 2021.

A woman in the inland empire pleaded guilty to federal fraud on Monday and admitted that she had raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in fake COVID-related unemployment benefits on behalf of prison inmates in California.

San Bernardino’s Paris Thomas, 33, from a state agency that handles unemployment benefits using the identities of dozens of prisoners and others, according to a judicial deal with a U.S. public prosecutor’s office prosecutor. Collected illegal payments of $477,000.



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Larry Benson
Larry Benson is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances for Revenue Discovery and Recovery at LexisNexis Risk Solutions. In this role, Benson is responsible for developing partnerships for the tax and revenue and child support enforcement verticals. He focuses on embedded companies that have a need for third-party analytics to enhance their current offerings.