Three people were charged earlier this month in one of the many fraud schemes uncovered during the pandemic in which unemployment claims were filed with the state under the names of incarcerated people and others.
According to an indictment filed September 16 in U.S. District Court in Northern California, 26-year-old Steven Mavromatis of San Leandro conspired with an incarcerated friend in Southern California and that man's wife to file some 91 fraudulent unemployment claims last year, drawing down $1.9 million in state funds from the EDD. They then used the money to purchase an Audi and put a down payment on a house.
The scheme allegedly involved the use of stolen identities purchased from the dark web, via a marketplace called Robocheck. 34-year-old Ratha Yin, an inmate at Centinela State Prison in Imperial County, may have been directing the operation, though that is unclear. Yin is accused, along with his wife Amanda Yin — a nurse in Indio — and Mavromatis, of filing the fraudulent claims and having the EDD debit cards sent to them, including some to a post office box controlled by Mavromatis.
The scheme was uncovered by a corrections officer who confiscated two cellphones from Ratha Yin last October and turned them over the FBI. The phones contained images of scanned EDD debit cards, as well as screenshots from Robocheck, and other incriminating information.
The complaint also says there was an additional $132,000 illegally obtained through similar means by Yin and some unnamed co-conspirators.
According to a release from the DOJ, "The complaint further alleges that Amanda Yin collected funds from Mavramatis, assisted in deciding where and how to deposit the funds, and deposited some of the illegally obtained funds in accounts in her own name and in a joint account with Ratha Yin. In addition, Amanda Yin allegedly used the proceeds of the scheme to purchase personal items; for example, according to the complaint, Amanda Yin used a straw purchaser to obtain a $71,000 Audi sport utility vehicle and, in May of 2021, she allegedly used the proceeds for a down payment on a home in Indio, Calif."
Mavromatis and Amanda Yin both made their first court appearances earlier this week. All three defendants face maximum sentences of 20 years of prison, three years of supervised release, and fines of $250,000 for mail and wire service fraud.
The scheme is one of many that were identified by Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert last fall, and in thousands of cases, the fraudulent claims were filed in the names of incarcerated people, including some famous California murderers. One Sacramento area woman allegedly used Dianne Feinstein's name and social security number to collect $21,000 in fraudulent monies. And by January, it became clear that the scope of the fraud might top $8 billion.
At the time, Schubert said that many inmates allegedly involved had been openly bragging about pulling one over on the EDD, and "Quite frankly, the inmates are mocking us."