Arrests in Ongoing Investigation into Employment Benefit Fraud in Sutter County
|U.S. Attorney’s Office January 15, 2013|
SACRAMENTO, CA—Three of nine defendants were arrested today in a continuing investigation into a fraudulent unemployment and disability benefits scheme based out of Sutter County, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced. Balkar Singh, 50; Harvinder Kaur, 37; and Harjinder Kaur Thandi, 34, all of Yuba City, will be arraigned today at 2:00 p.m. before U.S. Magistrate Judge Dale A. Drozd.
In a 36-count indictment that was unsealed today, a federal grand jury charged nine defendants with participating in a scheme to defraud the state of California of unemployment and disability benefits. The remaining defendants: Jit Kaur, 62; Daljit Kaur Sangha, 41; Sukhwinder Kaur, 54; Darshan Rani, 44, all of Yuba City; Avtar Kaur Bains, 73, of Roseville; and Mo Pegany, 56, of Ceres, will appear in court at a later date.
“Fraud against the employer-funded Unemployment Insurance program or the employee-funded Disability Insurance program costs all of us and will not be tolerated,” said Pam Harris, Director of the California Employment Development Department (EDD). “EDD’s investigators are committed to detecting and deterring fraud to protect the integrity of these vital programs, which are meant to benefit hardworking Californians and businesses.”
This is the third indictment in an ongoing investigation. Six defendants were indicted in May 2012, and six others were indicted in September 2012.
According to the first indictment, Mohammad Nawaz Khan, 56; Mohammad Adnan Khan, 31; Iqila Begum Khan, 31, all of Live Oak; and Mohammad Shahbaz Khan 56, of Yuba City, controlled a series of companies that were reported to the Employment Development Department as farm labor contractors. The Khans sold fake paystubs to other people in the community and used the companies they controlled to report false wages for the individuals who purchased those paystubs. The Khans at times instructed the purchasers how the fake paystubs could be used to fraudulently claim unemployment and disability benefits. Over the course of the conspiracy, the defendants reported wages for over 400 separate individuals that resulted in more than 2,000 fraudulent claims for unemployment and disability benefits. The loss in this case is more than $5 million.
According to the new indictment, Jit Kaur, Bains, Sangha, Pegany, Singh, Harvinder Kaur, Thandi, Sukhwinder Kaur, and Rani purchased pay stubs that falsely showed they had been paid wages by companies controlled by the Khans. The defendants would then use that pay stub to file for unemployment benefits, disability benefits, or both. According to the indictment, the defendants purchased pay stubs for approximately $250 for every $1,000 in wages. They would use those fraudulent obtained wages to file for unemployment insurance, disability insurance, or both.
This case is the product of a joint investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, and the Employment Development Department-Investigations Division. Assistant United States Attorney Jared Dolan is prosecuting the case.
If convicted, the defendants face a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count. Any sentence, however, would 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.
The charges are only allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.