California Woman Jailed After Using $300k in Fraudulent COVID Relief Payments to Gamble

  • The Fresno woman was sentenced to six years and three months in prison
  • She used stolen identities to commit fraud across seven states
  • The fraudulent applications were all submitted during four months in 2020
COVID relief check
A California woman has been jailed after fraudulently obtaining over $300,000 worth of COVID-19 relief funds and using a lot of this money to gamble. [Image:]

A woman in Fresno, California has been sentenced to six years and three months in prison after using over $300,000 in fraudulently obtained COVID-19 relief funds to gamble, go shopping, and pay her rent. Sentencing for Cecilia Aquino took place on Monday.

submitted fraudulent unemployment insurance claims and loan applications”

The Department of Justice described how the 32-year-old had committed “a crime spree where she submitted fraudulent unemployment insurance claims and loan applications in seven states using stolen identities.” She pled guilty to the charges in December.

The fraudulent applications were submitted across a four-month period in 2020. Aquino made numerous misrepresentations in the filings, including claiming that the pandemic led to the named individuals losing money as self-employed workers. One of these people was said to be a stripper and another had an interior design business.

The Clovis Police Department was one of the investigators in the case, alongside the FBI, the Department of Labor, and the SBA Office of Inspector General. The collaborative effort was part of a California COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Strike Force action.

A similar incident in Japan last year saw a man gamble away $358,000 in COVID relief which was supposed to go to 463 low-income households in Abu.

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