A Southern California prison inmate and two others were charged in federal court this week with defrauding the Employment Development Department of more than $1.9 million by using fake identities to claim coronavirus pandemic benefits.
Ratha Yin, 34; Amanda Yin, 31; and Stephen Mavromatis, 26, are charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California.
The charges stem from the Justice Department’s crackdown unemployment fraud in California and in other states. California reportedly paid out some $11 billion in fraudulent unemployment claims in the pandemic, when the federal government opened up generous, new benefits that made easy targets for fraud rings.
According to the indictment, Ratha Yin, an inmate at Centinela State Prison in Imperial County, used a cellphone to communicate with Mavromatis to file fraudulent claims for unemployment insurance with the EDD.
The group allegedly used the identities of hundreds of unknowing people to create email accounts, enabling Ratha Yin and Mavromatis to apply for fraudulent unemployment benefits.
EDD approved the claims and mailed out prepaid debit cards to a post office box controlled by Mavromatis, the complaint alleges.
Ratha Yin and Mavromatis filed at least 91 fraudulent claims, and at least $1.9 million in cash was withdrawn from the fraudulently obtained debit cards.
“In addition, the complaint alleges Ratha Yin and other co-conspirators filed claims and withdrew at least an additional $132,000 from accounts developed using similar methods,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Amanda Yin, who is the wife of Ratha Yin, allegedly knew about the plot, and collected money from Mavromatis. She allegedly assisted in deciding where and how to deposit the funds and deposited some of the funds into accounts in her name and in a joint account with Ratha Yin.
She allegedly used some of the proceeds to purchase a $71,000 Audi sport utility vehicle and for a downpayment on a home in Indio.
Amanda Yin and Mavromatis were arrested on Sept. 21.
All three defendants face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000, though any sentence would be subject to sentencing guidelines and federal statutes.