All Greed and No Smarts 


Some fraudsters concoct elaborate schemes, while others rely on the basics from YouTube. When scammers opt for the latter, you would think they’d exercise some caution. (If they found the technique online, so have the good guys.) But some of these folks are all greed and not very smart. This brings us to Cara Marie Kirk-Connell of Menifee, Calif., who watched online instructional videos on how to commit unemployment insurance fraud. (Maybe she didn’t watch them all the way to the end?)

To provide economic relief during the COVID-19 pandemic, the CARES Act expanded unemployment benefits, making fraudulent benefits extra appealing to opportunists like Kirk-McConnell. She admittedly accessed stolen identities from the “dark web” and used them to apply for California Employment Development Department (EDD) unemployment benefits, which are distributed through debit cards.

Kirk-Connell fraudulently obtained about 50 of these debit cards. (PSSST! If you have a lot of debit cards in other people’s names, don’t carry them around, like in your purse or car.) In September 2020, during a traffic stop, local police found 8 of the debit cards in her possession. (PSSST! If you do carry fraudulent EDD cards in your car, drive very carefully and obey all traffic laws.)

Then federal law enforcement officers arrested her on October 9, 2020 (PSSST! Remember–don’t carry fraudulent EDD cards… oh, never mind.), finding 4 debit cards in her purse, 4 more EDD cards in her trunk, and about $10K in cash.

Altogether, Kirk-Connell had fraudulently applied for and gotten access to about $534K in COVID-related unemployment benefits, of which $270K had already been spent by the time she was nabbed. She pleaded guilty to a single count of use of an unauthorized access card (The first smart move in the whole sordid story.) She was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison. (With no access to YouTube, for sure.)

Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from a KTLA5 article, “Riverside County woman sentenced for using stolen IDs from darknet to get more than $500K in unemployment benefits: DOJ,” dated April 9, 2021.

A Riverside County woman was sentenced Friday to more than three years in prison after she used stolen identities to get more than $500,000 in COVID-19-related unemployment benefits, federal officials said.

Cara Marie Kirk-Connell, 33, of Menifee found dozens of people’s birthdays and social security numbers on the dark web and used the stolen information to apply for benefits from the California Employment Development Department from May to October 2020, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California said in a news release.

Additional information is provided in a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, “Menifee Woman Pleads Guilty to Federal Criminal Charge for Fraudulently Obtaining Over $5000,000 in COVID-19 Jobless Relief,” dated December 16, 2020.

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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.