SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A San Diego woman and former contract employee with the state's Employment Development Department was charged with a dozen federal wire fraud and identity theft counts Thursday stemming from allegations that she conspired with her prison inmate boyfriend to steal hundred of thousands of dollars in pandemic unemployment aid.
Nyika Gomez, 40, was employed by an EDD contractor as a call center agent assisting people in processing their unemployment insurance claims.
According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, Gomez submitted false unemployment insurance claims using personal identifying information she acquired from inmates, with the help of her boyfriend, an unidentified inmate serving a 94-year-to life sentence for murder at California State Prison, Sacramento.
Gomez's boyfriend also allegedly helped her buy stolen personal identifying information from out-of-state residents to submit additional false unemployment claims.
The benefits were allegedly paid out in the form of debit cards, which were mailed to Gomez's residence or the home of someone working with her. She allegedly returned some of the proceeds to inmates by transferring money to their prison accounts.
Gomez was arrested Wednesday at her home and made her initial court appearance Thursday afternoon.
The case comes as state investigators are looking into allegations of hundreds of millions of dollars of fraud allegedly committed by inmates at state prisons and local jails.
"Pandemic unemployment insurance programs are a critical part of our safety net designed to support hardworking citizens who are suffering during this unprecedented time," said U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer.
"Fraud related to COVID-19 is particularly disturbing as it exploits a national crisis for personal gain."