The United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California charged three California residents for their roles in a conspiracy to file fraudulent COVID-19 unemployment benefit claims using stolen information purchased on the dark web.
Court documents disclosed that Ratha Yin, 34, his wife Amanda Yin, 31, and their accomplice, Stephen Mavromatis, 26, fraudulently obtained up to $2 million from the California Employment Development Department (EDD).
The trio’s scheme was discovered on October 16, 2020, when prison guards at Centinela State Prison found Yin and his cellmate in possession of two cell phones and two SD cards. Evidence recovered from the phones allegedly showed that Yin had been in constant communication with his wife and Mavromatis. They also established that he had been contacting the California Employment Development Department and the Bank of America.
Further investigations revealed that Yin used the phones to communicate with Mavromatis and plan on how they would file fraudulent unemployment claims. They allegedly purchased personally-identifying information for hundreds of victims on the darkweb and created email accounts for every victim. They then filed unemployment claims using the PII and the newly-created email addresses.
The duo would then instruct the EDD to mail the loaded debit cards to a post office box controlled by Mavromatis. Mavromatis allegedly withdrew at least 1.9 million from debit cards received from 91 fraudulently filed claims.
Amanda Yin would then collect funds from Mavromatis and deposit the funds into her accounts and an account she jointly held with Yin. She also purchased a $71,000 Audi and placed a down payment for her home with some of the funds.
The investigation resulted in the arrest of Amanda Yin and Mavromatis on September 21, 2021. All three defendants were charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud. If found guilty, they could be sentenced to a maximum sentence of 20 years of prison, three years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine.
The investigation also revealed that Ratha Yin had participated in a similar scheme with other accomplices and obtained an additional $132,000 from the scheme.