The number of people charged in connection with an alleged false-employment scheme based in Sutter County has ballooned to 21, and the investigation is continuing.
The scheme has drained millions of dollars out of government coffers via sham unemployment and disability claims, according to three indictments returned in the past nine months by federal grand juries in Sacramento.
Three of nine defendants in the latest indictment were arrested Tuesday and pleaded not guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Dale A. Drozd.
Balkar Singh, 50; Harvinder Kaur, 37; and Harjinder Kaur Thandi, 44, all of Yuba City, were each released on a $25,000 unsecured bond.
In the indictment, which was filed last week and unsealed Tuesday, the nine are charged in 36 counts of mail fraud.
They are accused of purchasing pay stubs falsely showing they collected wages from companies controlled by four people who were charged last May in the first indictment, along with two others.
The buyers claimed to have been laid off and presented the stubs to support applications for unemployment benefits, disability benefits, or both, according to the indictment.
They are alleged to have paid approximately $250 for every $1,000 in wages reflected on the stubs.
The businesses were reported to the California Employment Development Department as ostensibly engaged in providing contract labor to the agricultural community, primarily in Sutter and Yuba counties, during various periods from 1989 to last year, the indictment says.
The phony pay stubs were peddled by the principals of these purported businesses from no later than 1993 into last year, it says.
"Fraud against the employer-funded unemployment insurance program or the employee-funded disability insurance program costs all of us and will not be tolerated," said EDD Director Pam Harris on Tuesday. "EDD's investigators are committed to detecting and deterring fraud to protect the integrity of these vital programs, which are meant to benefit hardworking Californians and businesses."
A second indictment returned in August charges six others with also buying bogus pay stubs from defendants in the first indictment and using them to claim unemployment and/or disability benefits to which they were not entitled.
These stubs were acquired from no later than 1998 into last year, the second indictment says.
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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