Woman Led Unemployment Fraud Ring from Prison, Prosecutors Say

A California woman serving a life sentence for murder led a scheme to collect at least $2 million in unemployment benefits using stolen identities, including those of other incarcerated people, according to federal prosecutors. Natalie Le DeMola was one of 13 people charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud by collecting unemployment benefits using the personal information of people who did not qualify for the aid, according to the U.S. attorney’s office in the Central District of California.

Prosecutors allege that an unnamed prison official provided some of this personal information, including birth dates and Social Security numbers, collected from a California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation databases. A 39-count indictment indicates that members of the ring filed hundreds of unemployment applications online between June 2020 and April 2021 using the personal information of the people, including themselves, who were not eligible for benefits because they were incarcerated, retired, or working. Prosecutors have said that the applications were mostly for pandemic unemployment benefits expanded to help people who had lost work due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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