Five Arrested in Sutter and Yuba Counties for $5 Million Fraud Scheme

United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced that five individuals have been arrested in Sutter and Yuba Counties for their participa...

United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced that five individuals have been arrested in Sutter and Yuba Counties for their participation in a long-running unemployment and disability fraud scheme.

Mohammad Nawaz Khan, 56, and Iqila Begum Khan, 31, both of Live Oak; and Mohammad Shahbaz Khan, 56, Gurdev Kaur Johl, 67, and Kewal Singh, 74, all of Yuba City, were arrested today. They are scheduled to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Kendall J. Newman at 2:00 p.m. today. Also charged in the complaint, but not arrested is Mohammad Adnan Khan, 32, of Live Oak.

According to the criminal complaint, the defendants began forming a series of companies with the Employment Development Department in 1989. The most recent company was formed in 2011. All of these companies purported to be farm labor contractors that provided labor to harvest various agricultural crops in Sutter and Yuba Counties. However, undercover operations by a number of confidential sources showed that these businesses were in fact selling wages to hundreds of individuals in Northern California.

The defendants would charge an individual approximately $250 for $1,000 in wages. The purchaser, who never performed any work for the defendants’ companies, would then claim to be laid off and file for unemployment benefits, disability benefits, or both. When interviewed by EDD, the individuals who claimed to have worked for these companies would oftentimes not know the location where they worked, or the name of their supervisor. Sometimes they would report earnings that greatly exceeded the agricultural norms for the area. Many of the employees reported by these companies were between 50 and 70 years old and claimed that their duties consisted of picking peaches and harvesting walnuts, physically demanding work.

According to the criminal complaint, in order to further the fraud, the defendants used the name “Mohammed Khan,” used each other’s business addresses, repeatedly hired and laid off each other, and continually changed the names of the businesses. The investigation is ongoing in order to determine the full extent of the fraud. A preliminary analysis of EDD claim records has found more than 2,000 potentially fraudulent unemployment and disability claims and more than $5 million lost.

This case is the product of an extensive investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, and the Investigation Division of the California Employment Development Department. Assistant United States Attorney Jared C. Dolan is prosecuting the case.

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