SANTA ANA, California
An Orange County man was sentenced Monday to seven years in federal prison for fraudulently applying for more than $1.2 million in COVID-19 pandemic unemployment insurance (UI) benefits.
Officials stated that Nhan Hoang Pham received more than $400,000 of the same – using the stolen identities of two dozen victims.
U.S. District Judge James V. Selna sentenced Pham, 37, of Santa Ana. Pham was ordered to pay $408,496in restitution.
Pham pleaded guilty on Jan. 23 to one count of wire fraud concerning benefits connected to a presidentially declared emergency.
From July 2020 to April 2021, Pham acquired, without authorization or permission, the personal identifying information (PII) – including names, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers – of people living in California, Texas, and Michigan, people he had never met.
Pham then created and submitted fraudulent online applications to the California Employment Development Department (EDD), which administers the state’s unemployment insurance program.
Pham’s fraudulent applications sought federally funded pandemic benefits intended for the jobless. They represented that the victims whose PII was unlawfully used received mail at Anaheim address that, in fact, Pham controlled.
Upon receipt of the applications, EDD transmitted the claimant information to Bank of America, which caused the issuance and mailing of debit cards to Anaheim addresses that Pham controlled.
Pham then took the fraudulently obtained debit cards and used them to withdraw money at ATMs throughout Orange County.
While Pham tried to obtain approximately $1,255,350 through fraudulent applications containing the PII of 24 identity theft victims, he received about $408,496.
Assistant United States Attorney Lawrence E. Kole of the Santa Ana Branch Office prosecuted this case.
According to authorities, anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at (866) 720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.