LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Ten individuals have been charged in the District of Nevada for their alleged roles in unemployment insurance fraud schemes, including charges for conspiracy, mail fraud, identity theft, and unlawful possession and use of fraudulently obtained unemployment debit cards.
U.S. Attorney Nicholas A. Trutanich of the District of Nevada; Special Agent-in-Charge Quentin Heiden of the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General (DOL-OIG), Los Angeles Region; Executive Special Agent-in-Charge John D. Masters of the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General (USPS-OIG), Office of Investigations, Western Area Field Office; Special Agent-in-Charge Brian Spellacy of the U.S. Secret Service, Las Vegas Field Office; and Special Agent-in-Charge Aaron C. Rouse of the FBI, Las Vegas Field Office made the announcement.
“On behalf of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, we’re grateful for our law enforcement partners’ hard work and coordination in bringing to justice those who have taken unemployment funds —intended to help Nevadans who lost their jobs due to the pandemic — for their own illegal gain,” said U.S. Attorney Trutanich. “We will continue devoting the resources and skills to investigating and stopping fraudsters from stealing taxpayer dollars meant for out-of-work Nevadans.”
“These charges demonstrate the Office of Inspector General’s commitment to combating fraud against the Unemployment Insurance program, which has become increasingly prevalent amid the pandemic. We will continue to work with our law enforcement and state workforce agency partners to pursue individuals who seek to undermine the integrity of the Unemployment Insurance program,” said Quentin Heiden, Special Agent-in-Charge, Los Angeles Region, U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General.
“Today’s indictment of Ms. Jasmine Black sends a clear message that Mail Fraud, Identity Theft, and Obstruction of U.S. Mail, committed by a Postal Service employee, carries very serious consequences. The public we serve can rest assured that the Postal Service OIG, U.S. Attorney’s Office, and our partner law enforcement agencies remain committed to safeguarding the integrity of the U.S. Mail and ensuring the accountability and integrity of U.S. Postal Service employees,” said John Masters, Executive Special Agent-in-Charge, U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General (USPS-OIG), Office of Investigations, Western Area Field Office.
“The US Secret Service will continue to work with law enforcement and private partners to prioritize the investigative work required to combat a new wave of COVID-19 related fraud,” said Brian Spellacy, Special Agent-in-Charge, U.S. Secret Service, Las Vegas Field Office.
"Unfortunately the victims of these crimes are the unemployed citizens who are relying on these benefits to take care of their families; feeding them and keeping a roof over their heads. The FBI will continue working with our law enforcement partners to stop those who gain financially at the expense of taxpayers," said Aaron C. Rouse, Assistant Special Agent-in-Charge, FBI, Las Vegas Field Office.
According to the six federal criminal complaints announced today:
· Jasmine-Royshell Kanisha Black (32, of Las Vegas, Nevada) is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, one count of aggravated identity theft, and one count of obstruction of mail. As alleged in the complaint, Black was employed as a U.S. Postal Service mail carrier and assisted Vincent Okoye — previously charged in a federal indictment — with his scheme to fraudulently obtain unemployment benefits from the Nevada Department of Employment, Training & Rehabilitation (DETR) and the Arizona Department of Employment Services (DES). Black used her position as a mail carrier to help Okoye find straw addresses to which fraudulently obtained debit cards could be sent. She then intercepted and delivered those cards to Okoye in person. Debit cards recovered from a search of Okoye’s residence, car, and person had been approved for at least $460,000 in benefits by DETR and DES.
· Delashaun Dean (31, of Austin, Texas) is charged with one count of possession of counterfeit and unauthorized access devices and one count of identity theft. As alleged in the complaint, on October 3 and 5, 2020, Dean possessed at least 15 California Employment Development Department (EDD) debit cards containing unemployment insurance benefits issued in other people’s names. The debit cards in Dean’s possession had been approved for at least $220,000 in benefits by EDD.
· Kenneth Greenland (39, of Northridge, California), Brittany Griesel (37, of Santa Cruz, California), and Paul Naeger (37, of Spring, Texas) are each charged with one count of conspiracy to effect illegal transactions with access devices and one count of aggravated identity theft. In addition, Greenland and Griesel are charged with one count of illegal transactions with access devices. As alleged in the complaint, during a traffic stop in Las Vegas on August 8, 2020, law enforcement officers recovered eight EDD debit cards in other peoples’ names and $45,000 in cash in a car driven by Greenland in which Griesel was a passenger. According to bank records, Greenland and Griesel used those EDD debit cards at ATMs in Las Vegas and California, while Naeger used one of the debit cards found in the car to make calls while he was incarcerated in Texas. The debit cards recovered during the traffic stop had been approved for at least $250,000 in benefits by EDD.
· Joseph Holmes (21, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida) and Emelio Rochester (24, of Tallahassee, Florida) are each charged with one count of conspiracy to possess counterfeit and unauthorized access devices and one count of aggravated identity theft. As alleged in the complaint, during a traffic stop in Las Vegas on September 28, 2020, Holmes and Rochester possessed at least 17 EDD debit cards issued in the names of other people. During a search of a car Rochester was driving in which Holmes was a passenger, officers recovered almost $90,000 in cash. The debit cards recovered during the traffic stop had been approved for at least $385,000 in benefits by EDD.
· Antwine D. Hunter (33, of Las Vegas, Nevada) is charged with one count of mail fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. As alleged in the complaint, on September 28, 2020, while executing a search warrant at Hunter’s residence, law enforcement officers recovered at least eight DETR debit cards and at least 15 identification cards in other people’s names. The debit cards recovered during the search had been approved for at least $215,000 in benefits by DETR.
· Keheir Jordan Parker (24, of Victorville, California) and Robert Barber (24, of Lawrenceville, Georgia) are each charged with one count of conspiracy to effectuate illegal transaction with an access device and one count of aggravated identity theft. As alleged in the complaint, during a traffic stop in Las Vegas on September 11, 2020, law enforcement officers recovered 12 EDD debit cards issued in other peoples’ names, along with ATM receipts showing use of the debit cards in Las Vegas and California to make withdrawals totaling $6,400. Officers also located more than $10,000 in cash on Parker, on Barber, and in the car. The debit cards recovered during the traffic stop had been approved for at least $150,000 in benefits by EDD.
A total of five of these defendants are in custody, three of which are currently in state custody at Clark County Detention Center on state charges. Two other defendants have made arrangements through their attorneys to self-surrender tomorrow morning. Black, Greenland, and Griesel are expected to make their initial court appearances in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas on October 16, 2020, all before U.S. Magistrate Judge Daniel J. Albregts. Naeger made his initial court appearance today in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Texas. Dean, Rochester, and Hunter are currently in custody at Clark County Detention Center and will make their initial appearances in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas at a date to be determined later.
The minimum statutory penalty for aggravated identity theft is two years in prison. The maximum statutory penalty for mail fraud is 20 years in prison; for possession of counterfeit and unauthorized access devices, 10 years in prison; for illegal transactions with an access device, 15 years in prison; and for obstruction of mail, five years in prison. The maximum fine for each of these charges is $250,000. The minimum and maximum statutory sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only.
A criminal complaint is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
These cases are the products of investigations by the DOL-OIG, USPS-OIG, and U.S. Secret Service, with assistance from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, the FBI, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Nevada Attorney General’s Office. These cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim Fang.
Denise Reed has been out of work for a few months and is still in search of her unemployment benefits. She says DETR says her funds were distributed and reached out to Bank of America when she had problems with her debit card.
“I called a third time and the representative said that she was sorry that the card had been activated and the funds had been used, and that they would send a new card replacing the funds,” she said.
However, she never managed to get the funds and was out nearly eight thousand dollars. While she is still waiting, she’s frustrated her bank wasn’t able to get her money.
“There has to be some kind of rule in place for this. There is a pandemic right now and people need their money,” she said.
Reed says while she’s mad at the fraudsters for causing her headache, she’s more frustrated with both DETR and her bank for their delays.
“If you’re not doing your job and you’re not preventing the fraud, and you’re not helping the legitimate applicants trying to get money. When you’re actually sitting back and playing the slow roll, you have to actually be involved in what’s going on,” she said.