A Southern California gang member received $30,000 in fraudulently obtained unemployment insurance benefits while he was incarcerated and funnelled the money into the accounts of prison gang members, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
Investigators discovered the fraud during a homicide investigation of Anthony "Chopper" Garcia, who was initially arrested for driving on a suspended license. After the arrest, detectives noticed a tattoo on Garcia's chest depicting the crime scene of a drive-by murder. Garcia was convicted in April.
Garcia received the unemployment insurance benefits while he was incarcerated in the Los Angeles County jail system from October 2008 to March of 2010.
Investigators determined that family members and friends of Garcia fraudulently obtained and cashed bi-weekly unemployment insurance benefit checks totalling approximately $1,600 per month. Inmates are not legally entitled to unemployment benefits.
Three suspects allegedly worked with Garcia to cash checks totaling $20,000. The checks were mailed to addresses in La Habra, Downey, and Menifee (Riverside County). They were cashed in Pico Rivera and Riverside County.
After cashing the checks, the three suspects then deposited a portion of the money into the jail inmate financial accounts of Garcia and fellow gang members. Sheriff's detectives determined that the money was being used to benefit a criminal gang.
"Theft, drug sales, and violent crimes are an integral part of the gang culture," said Sgt. Kevin Lloyd of the sheriff's Homicide Bureau. "We will continue to go wherever gang members and their associates commit their crimes."
On Thursday, detectives from Sheriff's Major Crimes Bureau located and arrested the three suspects. Anthony Garcia's father, Juan Garcia, a 47-year old gang member and resident of Pico Rivera, was arrested at his place of employment in South Gate. He was arrested for 13 counts of second-degree burglary, conspiracy to commit grand theft, and unemployment fraud. All counts have the gang enhancement. His bail was set at $960,000.
The two other suspects are Anthony Garcia's girlfriends. Suspect Sandra Jaimez, a 45-year-old resident of Downey, was arrested at home for 10 counts of second-degree burglary, conspiracy, unemployment fraud, possession of controlled substance (methamphetamine) for sale, and a gang enhancement. Her bail was set at $600,000.
Suspect Cynthia Limas, a 25-year-old resident of Menifee, was arrested at home for conspiracy to commit grand theft and grand theft with a gang enhancement. Her bail was set at $60,000.