More than 20 people, including multiple state and local inmates, are accused of netting more than $150,000 in fraudulent COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic unemployment insurance, according to the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office.
A total of 13 current inmates at the Maguire Correctional Facility in Redwood City and the state prison system and eight people who were out of custody at the time are accused of the fraud scheme, according to Assistant District Attorney Sean Gallagher.
The case’s defendants are accused of filing 16 fraudulent unemployment insurance claims with the California Economic Development Department, Gallagher said, resulting in a payout of more than $150,000, a number that could increase as the investigation continues.
The district attorney’s office and the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office have been investigating the alleged fraud “for well over a month,” Gallagher said.
In addition to the 16 alleged fraudulent unemployment claims, the group also faces two counts of unlawful contact with a state prisoner.
The defendants accused of filing pandemic unemployment insurance claims were not eligible for pandemic insurance because they did not meet the requirement of being employed prior to the pandemic. All but one of the defendants allegedly named in the fraudulent claims were incarcerated before the pandemic began.
One of the defendants, who Gallagher did not name, is also alleged to have gone to Las Vegas and spent a significant amount of money. Other defendants could have been involved as well, he said.
All 21 defendants appeared in San Mateo County Superior Court Monday and are expected to be arraigned later this week after all of them have retained a defense attorney or a public defender.
The list of defendants named in the fraud charges was: Jasonna Auzenne, 26; Emon Brown, Jr., 32; Marcel Chapman, 31; Tony Covington, 21; Taisia Fauolo III, 24; Jose Luis Garcia Barron, 34; Jason Jones, 33; Mike Kamko, 30; Zachary Edward Lewis, 30; Luis Mariscal, 35; Lionel McCoy, Jr., 27; Rommel Narvaez, 26; Ronnell Favor Narvaez, 23; Khejon Nelson, 22; Quincy Norton, Sr., 46; Freeman Owens III, 35; Miani Pon, 19; Shamesha Reese, 35; Reginald Sinegal, 36; Joseph Smith III, 31; and Edgar Vasquez, 19.