The Nevada employment office has been hit with another unemployment insurance fraud case worth thousands of dollars.
The Nevada U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Wednesday that it has filed a lawsuit against Alan Ray, 33, alleging he was in possession of multiple unemployment debit cards under various names issued by the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation of Nevada and the California Department of Employment Development.
The value of the UI benefits on the 24 cards is at least $465,230, but when combined with illegally filed UI claims possibly made by Ray, the total amount reaches nearly 1 $.15 million in actual and potential benefits, according to court documents.
U.S. Attorney Nicholas Trutanich said that with recent Justice Department funding, the office will add an assistant U.S. attorney whose focus will be to prosecute unemployment insurance fraud related to the CARES Act.
“This new funding is just one more arrow in our quiver to combat unemployment fraud, and it shows not only our office’s commitment, but the Justice Department’s commitment as a whole to this initiative,” he said.
Signed, sealed, undelivered
Court documents show Ray, who is from England, was staying at the Wynn Las Vegas in October. While there, he used the hotel’s business center to ship a package to an address in Houston, but hotel security inspected the package, suspecting it contained illegal items.
Wynn security found 24 unemployment insurance debit cards under different names issued by the DETR and the California Bureau of Employment. They also found two notebooks containing personal identification information for more than 80 people, a photocopy of a Puerto Rico marijuana dispensary card with an address in Puerto Rico, a laptop computer, a receipt showing a withdrawal of 1 $000 at an ATM near Wynn using one of the unemployment debit cards, among other items, according to court documents.
FBI Special Agent Christina Burt said in the complaint that at least 60 of the names in the notebooks were used to file claims in California and Nevada. Burt contacted three of the people, whose claims had been filed in California, and learned that each of them had not filed for unemployment and had not lived in California, nor had ever visited California.
The complaint also states that Ray used multiple pseudonyms, including when checking in to the hotel, where he presented a Canadian passport under a different name. But it’s unclear if all of the pseudonyms mentioned in the complaint can be attributed to Ray or if other people were involved in the fraud. Trutanich would not comment.
Ray had been deported on a final deportation order for overstaying his visa in 2011, according to the complaint. He was charged with one count of possession of counterfeit and unauthorized access devices and one count of aggravated impersonation.
This isn’t the first time federal prosecutors have cracked down on fraudulent unemployment claims. In October, prosecutors charged a US Postal Service mail carrier with working with a Las Vegas resident in a conspiracy to steal unemployment funds from the DETR, while another case involved police finding at least eight DETR-issued debit cards, approved for at least $215,000 in benefits, at a residence.
Trutanich said the addition of a prosecutor also highlights the scale of the problem in Nevada – although the state is not alone, as other states like California and Washington are reporting an increase in fraud. Unemployed.
“I think it shows that Nevada has been hit hard by UI cheats and prosecutors in that office have shown that productivity warrants additional resources,” he said.