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Stockton man sentenced to prison for pre-pandemic unemployment fraud

A pair of Stockton men filed 72 fraudulent EDD claims and collected $609,335 in unemployment money from 2010 to 2018.

STOCKTON, Calif. — A Stockton man has been sentenced to over 6 years in prison for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in unemployment benefits, the Department of Justice said. 

Robert Joseph Maher, 42, was sentenced on Tuesday after being found guilty of filing fraudulent EDD claims seeking a total of $739,535 from unemployment benefits. According to a press release, EDD paid out $609,335 to Maher and a partner in the scheme, Michael Herron II, also of Stockton.

The thefts all occurred pre-pandemic, when the EDD unemployment boost was not in effect. According to court documents, between November 2010 and February 2018, Maher and Herron filed roughly 72 fraudulent unemployment claims. 

The pair did so by creating fake companies and fake employees using the real identities of people, some without their knowledge. Maher and Herron told EDD the "employees" had been laid off or fired, and EDD approved their fake claims. 

"In one instance, Maher and Herron electronically filed an unemployment insurance claim in the name of an identity-theft victim," the Department of Justice said in the press release. "Maher knew that the victim was a real person because the claim listed the victim’s correct date of birth and social security number."

However, the address listed on the claim was that of Maher. EDD sent the money via debit card to Maher's address, and that money was then transferred to Maher's personal bank account, according to the press release. That stolen identity was then used again for another claim under a different fake business in the fraud scheme.  

Maher was sentenced to six years and three months in prison for mail fraud and aggravated identity theft. On March 26, 2019, Herron pleaded guilty to similar counts of mail fraud and aggravated identity theft and, on June 25, 2019, was also sentenced to six years and three months in prison. 

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