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Judge: James V. Selna
Court: United States District Court for the Central District of California (Orange County)
Plaintiff's Attorney: United States Attorney’s Office in Santa Ana
Description: Santa, Ana criminal defense lawyer represented Defendant charged with fraudulently applying for more than $1.2 million in COVID-19 pandemic unemployment insurance (UI) benefits – and receiving more than $400,000 of the same – by using the stolen identities of two dozen victims.
Nhan Hoang Pham, 37, of Santa Ana, pleaded guilty on January 23 to one count of wire fraud in relation to benefits connected to a presidentially declared emergency.
From July 2020 to April 2021, Pham acquired without authorization or permission the personal identifying information (PII) – including names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers – of people living in California, Texas and Michigan, people he had never met.
Pham then created and submitted fraudulent online applications to the California Employment Development Department (EDD), which administers the state’s unemployment insurance program. Pham’s fraudulent applications sought federally funded pandemic benefits intended for the jobless and represented that the victims whose PII was unlawfully used received mail at Anaheim addresses that, in fact, Pham controlled.
Upon receipt of the applications, EDD transmitted the claimant information to Bank of America, which caused the issuance and mailing of debit cards to Anaheim addresses that Pham controlled.
Pham then took the fraudulently obtained debit cards and used them to withdraw money at ATMs throughout Orange County.
While Pham tried to obtain approximately $1,255,350 through fraudulent applications containing the PII of 24 identity theft victims, he received approximately $408,496.
The United States Secret Service; the United States Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General; the California Employment Development Department Investigation Division; the Orange County District Attorney’s Office Bureau of Investigation; and the Santa Ana Police Department investigated this matter.
Assistant United States Attorney Lawrence E. Kole of the Santa Ana Branch Office prosecuted this case.
Outcome: Defendant was sentenced to 84 months in prison.