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More men plead guilty in unemployment benefits scheme

Two more Las Vegas men have pleaded guilty in a scheme to steal $4.4 million in state and federal unemployment benefits, U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden said Friday.

Eloy Garcia, 33, entered a guilty plea this week to conspiracy to commit mail fraud, money laundering and making a false declaration in relation to a bankruptcy proceeding. He is cooperating with federal prosecutors in the case and is to be sentenced Feb. 1.

Efrain Garcia, 41, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and money laundering and has a Jan. 31 sentencing.

They agreed to forfeit $4,401,548 in cash as proceeds from the crimes.

A third defendant, Francisco Garcia, 41, of Las Vegas, entered a guilty plea on Monday to conspiracy to commit mail fraud, money laundering, and false representation of a Social Security number. He is to be sentenced on Feb. 3.

Bogden said a fourth Las Vegas defendant is set to plead guilty next week.

Prosecutors think the defendants are related but were unable to provide specific details of the relationships.

The scheme, which involved the participation of undocumented workers, took place from November 2007 to September 2009, according to federal court documents filed in the case.

The defendants submitted at least 591 unemployment claims, causing the state to pay the $4.4 million in state and federal benefits, the documents charged.

Prosecutors said undocumented workers were recruited to apply for unemployment benefits, though they were not entitled to the benefits because they were illegally in the United States.

The state mailed the benefits to addresses controlled by the defendants.

In some cases, prosecutors said, the defendants gave the undocumented workers a portion of the benefits but then withheld the rest, claiming the state had stopped paying the benefits.

In other instances, the defendants kept the money and told the recruited applicants their unemployment claims were not accepted, when in fact they had been.

Several federal and state agencies, including the IRS Criminal Investigation and the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation, participated in the investigation.

“I would like to commend all of the agencies that investigated this case,” Bogden said. “Fraud cases such as this require significant resources and inter-agency cooperation to develop, investigate and prosecute. “

Contact Jeff German at jgerman@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-8135.

 

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