TORRANCE, Calif. (KTLA) – Police in Torrance, California have arrested more than two dozen people in connection with EDD fraud and identify theft in the past six weeks, officials announced Wednesday.
More than 130 California Employment Development Department debit cards and $150,000 in cash were recovered during the investigation, which has resulted in 27 arrests since Sept. 10, according to the Torrance Police Department. Four firearms, including two non-serialized “ghost guns,” were also recovered.
The individuals are accused of using stolen identifies to fraudulently obtain unemployment benefits administered by the EDD, a police news release stated. Police did not identify any of the suspects.
All 27 were found to have used the EDD debit cards, most of which were issued in someone else’s name — including some whose identities had been stolen, according to the release. Many of the cards had a value of up to $20,000.
Authorities allege the suspects made high-end purchases with the cards and also used them to withdraw cash from ATMs.
“Investigators will continue to work with State and Federal law enforcement agencies to help battle this ongoing criminal trend,” the release read.
The arrests are the latest tied to fraud of EDD benefits in California.
The bust follows a crackdown last week during which California officials froze at least 350,000 unemployment debit cards whose owners were suspected of fraud.
One of several tip-offs was a high volume of claims originating at one address, Employment Development Department officials said.
The unemployment claims in question were made as part of the government’s Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which directed benefits to people who ordinarily wouldn’t have received them.
The federal program went into effect after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to help workers forced to stay at home under shelter-in-place orders.
Anyone who has received either mail from EDD but didn’t apply for unemployment, or has received mail addressed to someone else, is reminded to call their local police department and report it.