Beverly Hills police arrested 44 people suspected of unemployment benefit fraud and identity theft, police said Wednesday.
The suspects were using stolen identities to get benefit cards from the Employment Development Department, and then often using the money on short-term rentals and luxury items, the Beverly Hills Police Department said in a news release.
Since Sept. 3, officers have found and arrested 44 people who had 129 fraudulent EDD debit cards, together holding over $2.5 million, according to police. Officers also seized more than $289,000 and seven handguns found among those arrested.
“Suspects have traveled primarily from out of state to obtain these fraudulent EDD cards in California,” Beverly Hills police said.
The debit cards from the unemployment agency could have up to $20,000 loaded into the accounts, and cardholders can withdraw up to $1,000 every day from each card.
“The suspects will most often have numerous EDD cards in their possession with other people’s identities, along with large amounts of cash,” police said. “They will then use the cards to lease short-term rentals, rent luxury vehicles, dine at restaurants and purchase high-end merchandise.”
The scam isn’t new.
Officials say there’s been growing evidence of possible widespread fraud in California’s unemployment benefits system, and the state is investigating whether people have filed dozens of fraudulent claims during the pandemic.
The fraud allegations surfaced after multiple Californians reported getting mail from the EDD about unemployment claims, even though they hadn’t filed any.
“There are millions of tax dollars being spent fraudulently as a result of this trend,” Police Chief Dominick Rivetti said in a written statement. “The Beverly Hills Police Department is also working closely with our business community to keep them well informed of this trend in an effort to mitigate these crimes within our City.”
Last month, Thousand Oaks police arrested two men suspected of withdrawing over $164,000 with fraudulently obtained unemployment benefit debit cards.
The Beverly Hills Police Department said it’s working with other local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to combat the issue.
Anyone with information about the recent trend is encouraged to call Beverly Hills police at 310-285-2125, or submit an anonymous tip by texting BEVHILLSPD and the information to 888777.