LOS ANGELES (AP) — Two U.S. Postal Service employees were arrested Wednesday on charges that they abused their positions to purchase postal money orders with thousands of dollars in California unemployment benefits obtained through false claims of pandemic-related job losses, authorities said.
A March 3 criminal complaint unsealed after the arrests alleges conspiracy, aggravated identity theft, access device fraud and fraud in connection with major disaster or emergency benefits, the Los Angeles U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a press release.
Christian Jeremyah James, 31, of South Los Angeles and Armand Caleb Legardy, 32, of Inglewood were expected to make initial appearances in a Los Angeles court Wednesday afternoon. It was not immediately known if they had lawyers to speak on their behalf.
The two, who work at different Los Angeles-area post offices, allegedly obtained debit cards that had been issued by the California Employment Development Department based on applications submitted under 10 stolen identities.
“Both James and Legardy used the fraudulently obtained EDD debit cards to purchase Postal money orders and cash Postal money orders that had been purchased with those debit cards, according to the complaint, which notes instances in which unidentified individuals used the EDD debit cards to purchase Postal money orders from the defendants while they were on duty at the Post Office,” the release said.
The two allegedly also used EDD debit cards with other people’s names to withdraw cash from ATMs.
The 10 fraudulently obtained EDD debit cards were used to make $168,758 in purchases and $31,133 in ATM cash withdrawals as of late December, the release said.
The complaint does not accuse James or Legardy of submitting the fraudulent applications to the EDD.
Officials have discovered billions of dollars in fraud in California’s unemployment system in the past year.