Sutter County Woman Pleads Guilty to Participation in Large-Scale EDD Benefit Fraud Scheme
SACRAMENTO, CA—Iqila Begum Khan, 34, of Live Oak, pleaded guilty today to conspiring to commit mail fraud in a fictitious employer scheme, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.
Iqila Khan is one of 28 defendants charged in a long-running Yuba City-based scheme that involves several family members. She is the daughter of defendant Mohammad Nawaz Khan, sister of Mohammad Adnan Khan, and niece of Mohammad Shahbaz Khan and Mohammad Riaz Khan. To date, 15 defendants have pleaded guilty to various charges. A jury trial for Mohammad Nawaz Khan and five others is scheduled for January 12, 2015.
According to court documents, the defendants set up farm labor contracting businesses that purported to provide labor to harvest various crops in Sutter and Yuba Counties. They registered the businesses with the California Employment Development Department and reported employees and their wages to EDD. The organizers of the scheme sold fraudulent paystubs to other people and reported the wages to EDD. The purchasers of the fake wages could then subsequently file for unemployment or disability benefits with EDD based on their fictitious “employment.” Because the amount of the benefit that EDD pays is based on the claimant’s prior earnings, customers were charged more for documents reflecting higher wages.
According to her plea agreement, Iqila Khan sold fake wages on behalf of the companies at a rate of $250 for every $1,000 of reported “wages.” Iqila Khan generally sold these fraudulent wages at an office on Palora Avenue in Yuba City. During the investigation, Iqila Khan was secretly recorded making a sale, where she explained to the undercover buyer how and when to file for unemployment benefits based on the fake wages and what to say if the buyer was contacted by the state. Law enforcement later executed a search warrant at the Palora Avenue office and found a black ledger providing lists of names and amounts that were to be listed as fictitious wages with EDD as well as hundreds of fraudulent paystubs associated with the scheme.
Over the course of the conspiracy, it is alleged that the defendants reported false wages for over 1,000 separate individuals that resulted in more than 2,000 fraudulent claims for unemployment benefits. The scheme is alleged to have defrauded EDD of more than $14 million.
The prosecution of this fraud scheme has consisted of two indictments in 2012, two in 2013, and a fifth indictment in 2014. The last indictment charges one of the original defendants and another man with a new scheme to sell false wages and two other individuals with committing perjury before the federal investigating grand jury.
This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, and the California Employment Development Department, Investigation Division. Assistant United States Attorneys Jared C. Dolan and Sherry D. Haus are prosecuting the case.
Iqila Khan is scheduled to be sentenced by Chief United States District Judge Morrison C. England Jr. on January 29, 2015, and faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.