Torrance police have arrested more than two dozen people in connection with EDD fraud and identify theft in the past six weeks, officials announced Wednesday.
More than 130 California Employment Development Department debit cards and $150,000 in cash were recovered during the investigation, which has resulted in 27 arrests since Sept. 10, according to the Torrance Police Department. Four firearms, including two non-serialized “ghost guns,” were also recovered.
The individuals are accused of using stolen identities to fraudulently obtain unemployment benefits administered by the EDD, a police news release stated. Police did not identify any of the suspects.
All 27 were found to have used the EDD debit cards, most of which were issued in someone else’s name — including some whose identities had been stolen, according to the release. Many of the cards had a value of up to $20,000.
Authorities allege the suspects made high-end purchases with the cards and also used them to withdraw cash from ATMs.
“Investigators will continue to work with State and Federal law enforcement agencies to help battle this ongoing criminal trend,” the release read.
The arrests are the latest tied to fraud of EDD benefits in California.
Last week, officials said they froze at least 350,000 debit cards filled with money for unemployment benefits in the state due to suspected fraud.
The debit cards were frozen for several reasons, including a high number of claims at a single address, according to the Employment Development Department.
The agency said the claims were part of the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which offers unemployment benefits to people who would not normally be eligible to receive them.
Congress approved that program because of shelter-in-place orders that left many out of work during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since March, California has processed more than 15 million unemployment claims.
Anyone who has received either mail from EDD but didn’t apply for unemployment, or has received mail addressed to someone else, is reminded to call their local police department and report it.