Former Crips gang members, inmates sentenced to prison for COVID-19 insurance fraud
Targeted News Service
FRESNO, California, Oct. 4 -- The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California, Phillip A. Talbert, posted the following news release on Oct. 3, 2022:
Sholanda Thomas, 38, a former Hoover Crips gang member and an inmate at the Central California Women's Facility (CCWF) in Chowchilla, was sentenced today to five years and five months in prison for conspiring to submit fraudulent unemployment insurance claims to the California Employment Development Department (EDD) in the names of other CCWF inmates, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.
According to court documents, Thomas sent her own and other inmates' personally identifiable information to Christina Smith, a parolee and a former Hoover Crips gang member, to submit the unemployment insurance claims in their names. The underlying applications falsely represented that the inmates had been working as carpet cleaners, hair stylists, mechanics, and other jobs. This was impossible because they were incarcerated and ineligible for benefits. The intended loss to the EDD and the United States was over $250,000 and the actual loss was more than $200,000. The proceeds were spent on various personal expenses, including plastic surgery for Smith.
Smith was sentenced in September 2021 to five years in prison for her role in the conspiracy.
This case was the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's Investigative Services Unit, and the EDD. Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Barton prosecuted the case.
This case was prosecuted as part of the California COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Strike Force, one of three interagency COVID-19 fraud strike force teams established by the Department of Justice. The California Strike Force combines law enforcement and prosecutorial resources in the Eastern and Central Districts of California. The strike forces focus on large-scale, multistate pandemic relief fraud perpetrated by criminal organizations and transnational actors. The strike forces are interagency law enforcement efforts, using prosecutor-led and data analyst-driven teams designed to identify and bring to justice those who stole pandemic relief funds.