SANTA ANA, Calif.—A 26-year-old woman was sentenced Dec. 4 to more than three years in federal prison Dec. 4 for her part in a state unemployment fraud scheme during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sasha Lizette Jimenez, who pleaded guilty May 22 to a count of a conspiracy to commit bank fraud, was ordered by U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney to pay $2.3 million in restitution. Judge Carney sentenced Ms. Jimenez to 41 months in federal prison.
Ms. Jimenez, who was the bookkeeper for the scheme, caused $2.8 million in phony unemployment insurance benefit cards to be issued with at least $2.3 million withdrawn from the cards, prosecutors said.
Ms. Jimenez’s ex-boyfriend, Meshach Samuels, 26, of Placentia, was sentenced in October to 90 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $423,087 in restitution.
Mr. Samuels charged fees to his social media followers for tips on how to recruit others to help them use a check fraud scheme to steal from banks, prosecutors said. He and others ran the scheme involving stolen personal identifying information and depositing phony checks into third-party accounts from May 2021 through March 2022, prosecutors said.
Once the money from the bogus checks was registered in a bank account, Mr. Samuels and others would take out the cash in amounts lower than $10,000 so they could avoid activity security safeguards, prosecutors said.
The scheme sought about $1.2 million, but led to losses of at least $423,087, prosecutors said.
Mr. Samuels was also involved during the pandemic in the scheme to steal about $14,250 in state unemployment benefits using the identities of the deceased or others not eligible for benefits, according to prosecutors. He has a criminal history that includes aggravated battery on a police officer in Florida with an enhancement for attempted murder, prosecutors said. During an August 2021 traffic stop in Costa Mesa officers recovered a gun and ammunition on him, prosecutors said.
When federal agents searched Mr. Samuels’s home in March 2022 they found five guns and ammunition, prosecutors said.