California woman accused of claiming $21,000 in unemployment benefits under Dianne Feinstein’s name
Andrea M. Gervais, 43, a former employee of California’s Employment Development Department, allegedly conducted a mail fraud scheme involving 100 fraudulent state unemployment claims under other peoples’ names, including the name of a U.S. senator, according to a federal complaint.
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to the mission of combatting fraud that abuses the provisions of the CARES Act,” U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott said in a Thursday statement. “We will work with every major law enforcement agency to investigate and prosecute the fraud arising out of the pandemic. This theft of taxpayer dollars intended to assist our citizens in a very difficult economic time simply will not be tolerated.”
At least 12 of the 100 fraudulent claims Gervais apparently submitted were approved, totaling more than $200,000 in Bank of America debit cards sent to her Roseville residence.
The economic development department processed one such claim of $21,000 that Gervais filed in Feinstein’s name, sources familiar with the matter told Politico. Neither the agency nor Scott’s Sacramento office immediately responded to inquiries from Fox News.
Bank of America ATM cameras apparently captured Gervais withdrawing cash from a number of machines using at least seven unemployment debit cards, including one showing the senator’s name, according to the complaint.
Gervais could face up to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $250,000 if she is convicted, the Justice Department said in a Thursday press release.
The economic development department “is committed to combatting the aggressive fraud attacks against the unemployment benefit system and is grateful for the collaborative efforts of federal, state and local partners in this shared goal,” Chief Depty Director of External Affairs Nancy Farias said in a statement. “EDD has enhanced its fraud detection and prevention tools to ensure only valid claimants receive timely benefits.”
The $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act allocated funding to states so they could expand unemployment benefits for those who lost their jobs amid the pandemic. California has been inundated with fraudulent claims totaling millions in taxpayer dollars.
Bank of America said in a Dec. 7 statement that fraudulent unemployment claims could amount to $2 billion; the bank identified more than 640,000 accounts linked to suspicious behavior, according to the Los Angeles Times.