State worker accused of using job in unemployment scheme

Two Turlock residents are among five people who have been indicted in a scheme that stole the identities of more than 250 people and collected more than $800,000 in fraudulent unemployment benefits, authorities said.

The case involved investigation by the U.S. Dept. of Labor, Office of Inspector General, Federal Bureau of Investigation and California Employment Development Department. Federal prosecutors said Emanuel used her job to access the identifications of workers throughout the state, giving that information to other members of the alleged conspiracy to file the fraudulent unemployment claims in the names of the unknowing victims.

The indictment charged: Pamela Emanuel, 57, of San Jose; Gregory Lee, 55, of Antioch; Russell White III, 35, of Turlock; Brittany Maunakea, 27, of Turlock; and Sergio Reyna, 24, of Stockton with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and 16 counts of mail fraud.

Investigators said she gave the information to the other suspects, who used it to file unemployment claims between April 2013 and July 2016.

Emanuel sometimes contacted her department posing as a laid-off employee, while hiding her identity, prosecutors said.

Reyna was also arrested Thursday, while investigators are seeking the remaining three people.

Emanuel was the tax compliance representative for the state Employment Development Department. When defendants filed claims with EDD, they provided names of fake businesses as the claimants' last employers so the victims' true employers were not immediately notified that a claim was filed. Emanuel and Lee are also charged with separate counts of aggravated identity theft.

They each could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Emanuel and Lee also face a minimum penalty of two years in prison for the identity theft charges.