LOS ANGELES - A woman who is serving a life sentence for murder in California is charged with masterminding a $2 million fraud scheme involving COVID-19 unemployment money from behind bars, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.
Natalie Le Demola, 37, is among 13 people charged with using stolen identities to apply online for — and receive — benefits from the California Employment Development Department, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement.
Most of the money had been earmarked for relief for people suffering from business lockdowns and restrictions aimed at reducing the deadly spread of COVID-19 and most of the fraud occurred in the second half of 2020, when infections were rising rapidly.
Some of the identities were those of people who weren’t eligible for state unemployment insurance benefits because they were working, retired or in prison, prosecutors said.
Some of the personal identifying information used — such as names, birth dates and Social Security numbers — was provided by a state prison official who wasn’t named, the indictment alleged.