LOS ANGELES-A Los Angeles man indicted by a federal grand jury this month for possessing methamphetamine and unauthorized debit cards is suspected of using the identities of 23 inmates and others to obtain more than $3 million in state unemployment benefits, according to court records.
Edward Kim, 35, allegedly submitted at least 400 fraudulent claims with the California Economic Development Department from March 30 to Sept. 8, 2020, according to an arrest affidavit filed by U.S. Department of Labor Special Agent Anthony Clark. At least 120 of those EDD claims were filed under the names of inmates incarcerated in California prisons, authorities said.
Kim was arrested in November following a traffic stop by La Habra police, who allegedly discovered methamphetamine and EDD materials.
Officials with the U.S. Department of Labor and EDD declined to comment on Kim’s arrest or the fraud he is accused of perpetrating.
“EDD continues to partner with federal, state and local authorities in fighting the work of scammers sitting on a treasure trove of stolen identity information from the dark web and assaulting unemployment insurance programs across the country,” the agency said in a statement. “We are committed to working with our partners to identify and prosecute offenders to the fullest extent of the law.”
The state agency paid $10.4 billion to claimants with unverified identities and $810 million to prison inmates, according to the Bay Area News Group. The EDD admitted in January 2021 that the total fraud could reach $31 billion.
The Department of Labor began investigating Kim after Las Vegas police arrested him on Sept. 15, 2020, at a hotel, where he was found in possession of methamphetamine and 32 EDD debit cards, according to the affidavit.
“Kim told Las Vegas Metropolitan Police that the reason he had multiple EDD cards in his possession was because he helps people file unemployment claims in exchange for a 10% kickback from each of the EDD card owners,” the affidavit says.
Twenty-three of the debit cards were in the names of inmates ineligible for unemployment insurance benefits, according to Clark.
EDD applications for the inmate claims allegedly filed by Kim indicated each claimant had an annual income of $72,000 and was unemployed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This reported income on the fraudulent applications caused EDD to pay the maximum amount, thereby maximizing the fraud and benefits received,” the affidavit says. “None of these applications provided driver’s license information either, which is requested on the applications for verification purposes.”
The affidavit does not indicate whether the inmates knew about the fraud or were willing participants.
Each of the EDD claim applications used various addresses associated with Kim, including that of his former apartment on Beach Boulevard in La Habra, according to Clark.
Kim and other unknown conspirators allegedly withdrew at least $1.9 million in illegal EDD payments from ATM machines. “As a result, law enforcement believes that Kim still possesses a significant amount of cash,” says the affidavit.
Addressing Kim’s access to funds, Clark noted that in late September he made multiple large cash purchases, including a new 2020 Dodge Ram Rebel valued at $81,500.
In addition to bogus EDD claims, Kim also allegedly filed 297 fraudulent tax returns using stolen identities to obtain $21,600 in COVID-19-related stimulus payments.