Updated December 23, 2020 - 4:56 pm
Nevada’s employment office has been hit with another case of unemployment insurance fraud worth thousands of dollars.
The U.S. attorney’s office in Nevada announced Wednesday that it filed a complaint against Alan Ray, 33, alleging he was in possession of multiple unemployment debit cards under various names issued by the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation and the California Employment Development Department.
The value of unemployment insurance benefits on the 24 cards is at least $465,230, but when coupled with illegally filed unemployment insurance claims possibly made by Ray the total amount reaches nearly $1.15 million in actual and potential benefits, according to court documents.
U.S. Attorney Nicholas Trutanich said thanks to recent funding from the Department of Justice, the office will be adding an assistant U.S. attorney whose focus will be prosecuting CARES Act-related unemployment insurance fraud.
“This new funding is just one more arrow in our quiver to combat unemployment fraud, and it shows not only the commitment of our office but the commitment of the Department of Justice as a whole to this initiative,” he said.
Signed, sealed, not delivered
Court documents show Ray, who is from England, was staying at Wynn Las Vegas in October. During his stay, he used the hotel’s business center to ship a package to an address in Houston, but hotel security inspected the package on suspicion it contained illegal items.
Wynn’s security found 24 unemployment insurance debit cards under different names issued by DETR and California’s employment office. They also found two notebooks containing personal identifying information of more than 80 people, a photocopy of a Puerto Rico marijuana dispensary card with a Puerto Rico address, a laptop, a receipt showing a $1,000 withdrawal from an ATM near Wynn using one of the unemployment debit cards, among other items, court documents say.
FBI Special Agent Christina Burt said in the complaint that at least 60 of the names inside the notebooks had been used to file claims in California and Nevada. Burt contacted three of the individuals, whose claims were filed in California, and learned each of them did not file an unemployment claim and did not live in California, nor ever visited California.
The complaint also said Ray used several aliases, including when checking into the hotel, where he presented a Canadian passport under a different name. But it’s unclear whether all of the aliases mentioned in the complaint can be attributed to Ray or if other individuals were involved in the fraud. Trutanich would not comment.
Ray had been deported on a final order of removal for overstaying his visa in 2011, according to the complaint. He has been charged with one count of possession of counterfeit and unauthorized access devices and one count of aggravated identity theft.
It’s not the first time federal prosecutors have cracked down on fraudulent unemployment claims. In October, prosecutors charged a U.S. Postal Service mail carrier for working with a Las Vegas resident in a conspiracy to steal unemployment funds from DETR while another case involved police finding at least eight DETR-issued debit cards, approved for at least $215,000 in benefits, at one residence.
Trutanich said the addition of a prosecutor also highlights the scope of the problem in Nevada — though the state isn’t alone as other states like California and Washington report increased unemployment fraud.
“I think it shows Nevada has been hit hard by unemployment insurance fraudsters and that the prosecutors in this office have shown the productivity warranting extra resources,” he said.