Two U.S. Postal Service employees pleaded guilty Monday to charges they purchased postal money orders with thousands of dollars in California unemployment benefits obtained through false claims of pandemic-related job losses, prosecutors said.
Christian Jeremyah James, 31, and Armand Caleb Legardy, 32, each pleaded guilty in separate hearings to one count of use of unauthorized access devices, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement.
James is a South Los Angeles resident who worked in Culver City’s main post office, while Legardy, of Inglewood, was assigned to the La Tijera Post Office on Crenshaw Boulevard in South L.A., officials said.
Prosecutors said the two obtained debit cards that had been issued by the California Employment Development Department based on applications submitted under 10 stolen identities.
As part of a plea deal, James and Legardy admitted they used the EDD-issued debit cards in other people’s names to purchase or cash money orders from the Postal Service and to withdraw thousands of dollars in cash from bank ATMs, the statement said. The defendants also admitted that they deposited fraudulently purchased postal money orders directly into their own bank accounts, according to prosecutors.
When sentenced later this year, each defendant could face a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison.
The criminal complaint did not accuse James or Legardy of submitting the fraudulent applications to the EDD.
Officials have discovered billions of dollars in fraud in California’s unemployment system in the past year.