A Santa Ana man was charged Oct. 5 in a federal court with defrauding California’s COVID unemployment insurance program by using personal information stolen from people with similar names to apply for $1.25 million in benefits.
Nhan Hoang Pham, 36, of Santa Ana, was charged with mail fraud, wire fraud, and identity theft connected to government-issued emergency COVID-19 funds.
Pham is currently in state custody on unrelated charges that were not specified, according to the Justice Department. He is expected to be arraigned following his release later this month.
The indictment alleges Pham, from July 2020 through April 2021, submitted fraudulent applications for unemployment insurance after acquiring personal information—such as dates of birth and Social Security numbers—from individuals with identical or similar names who lived in California, Texas, and Michigan.
He allegedly submitted over 20 fraudulent applications to the Employment Development Department (EDD), which administers unemployment insurance benefits for residents of California, including benefits to individuals who were unemployed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
He allegedly directed that unemployment benefit cards issued by Bank of America on behalf of the EDD be sent to mail drops he controlled in Anaheim, according to the indictment, alleging Pham and co-schemers used the cards to withdraw cash from ATMs across Orange County.
If convicted, Pham would face a maximum of 30 years in federal prison. Additionally, the identity theft charges carry a mandatory two-year sentence.