American Justice Notebook

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Man Guilty of Using Stolen Identities to Apply for More than $1 Million in COVID Jobless Benefits

            SANTA ANA, California 

An Orange County man pleaded guilty Monday to fraudulently applying for more than $1.2 million in COVID-19 pandemic unemployment insurance (UI) benefits – and receiving more than $400,000 of the same – by using the stolen identities of two dozen victims, officials stated.

            Nhan Hoang Pham, 36, of Santa Ana, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in relation to benefits connected to a presidentially declared emergency.

           According to his plea agreement, 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 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.

          white and black printer paper  While Pham tried to obtain approximately $1,255,350 through fraudulent applications containing the PII of 24 identity theft victims, he received approximately $408,496, according to authorities.

            U.S. District Judge James V. Selna scheduled a May 22 sentencing hearing.  Pham faces up to 30 years in federal prison.

               Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel S. Lim of the Santa Ana Branch Office is prosecuting this case.

            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.

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