Two Moreno Valley residents face charges in a case connected to “massive scheme” involving inmates fraudulently filing for unemployment benefits, prosecutors announced Thursday.
Blake Fallon, 51, and Jessica Kaye, 44, will both be charged with a felony count of conspiracy to commit unemployment insurance fraud, according to a news release from the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office. Prosecutors are also planning to file felony charges of perjury and unemployment insurance fraud against Fallon.
The pair were arrested on Jan. 28 at a home in the 8000 block of Pigeon Pass Road, where investigators also seized an undisclosed amount of cash and other evidence, authorities said.
The arrests are part of an ongoing investigation by the DA’s office into widespread California Employment Development Department benefit fraud tied to people in state prisons.
“The scope and impact of this fraud is outrageous,” DA Mike Hestrin said in a news release. “The losses statewide are estimated in the billions of dollars and could be double-digit billions.”
An investigation into the case involving Fallon and Kaye began last December, when the DA’s office began probing EDD unemployment benefits fraud involving inmates housed in Riverside County jails who allegedly submitted applications online.
One man accused of filing an EDD application while in custody is 58-year-old Brian Jay Davidson, who has been charged with vehicular homicide, according to a DA’s office news release.
Through the investigation, prosecutors discovered that Davidson’s personal information was obtained by Fallon and Kaye, who are friends with him. The pair then submitted an unemployment application on behalf of Davidson and received more than $18,000 in benefits from the state, the release stated.
Davidson will also be charged with a count of conspiracy to commit unemployment insurance fraud, officials said.
The incident is just one of “numerous EDD-related cases” the office is investigating, according to the release. In the past two weeks, investigators served three separate search warrants in the county.
California has been hit hard by unemployment benefits fraud, with a recent audit finding that “significant missteps and inaction” by the state during the COVID-19 pandemic could end up costing taxpayers more than $10 billion. That figure is expected to rise as an additional $20 billion in payments is being investigated as suspicious.
At least $810 million has been paid out by the EDD in the names of approximately 45,000 inmates, the Associated Press reported.
The problem cropped up across the U.S. after the unemployment benefits increase that was part of the pandemic-related CARES Act, with inmates using a facilitator to obtain billions in their names, according to the DA’s office.
“What is particularly offensive about these crimes is that these criminals are stealing much-needed benefits from people experiencing extreme economic hardship because of the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns,” Hestrin said. “We, as state and local government officials, have to cooperate with one another to make sure this never happens again.”