A 31-year-old Riverside woman suspected of stealing state unemployment benefits through identity theft was free on her own recognizance Tuesday.
Jazmin Ugalde was arrested Thursday on suspicion of fraud to obtain government funds and identity theft. She was released within a few hours of being taken into custody.
According to Riverside Police Department Detective Cory Camp, the agency’s Economic Crimes Unit identified Ugalde as an ID theft suspect while conducting an investigation into recent acts of fraud.
Evidence surfaced indicating she was allegedly using other people’s names, addresses and Social Security numbers to apply for and obtain benefits payments from the California Employment Development Department, the detective said.
“The EDD normally investigates these benefit fraud cases; however, their system has been completely overwhelmed with the dramatic increase in cases,” Camp said. “This has led to local law enforcement agencies now investigating the frauds occurring within their own jurisdictions.”
A search warrant was procured and served at the suspect’s address in the 4900 block of La Sierra Avenue, where alleged victims’ personal information was located, according to Camp.
He said Ugalde was arrested without incident when she went to the Riverside Hall of Justice to make an appearance on an unrelated criminal matter, also connected to ID theft.
EDD fraud has been widely reported in connection with the surge in unemployment claims stemming from the coronavirus public health lockdowns that have forced numerous businesses to close. A number of elected officials, among them Sen. Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore, have called for closer scrutiny, including an audit, of the EDD to root out problems. Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered a two-week suspension of claims processing in late September to allow a reboot of EDD operations, but no audit.
Melendez’s office has received complaints from residents whom she said turned over dozens of envelopes from EDD containing other people’s information, with addresses in San Jose, San Diego and elsewhere.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced fraud charges against a 32-year-old Menifee woman, Cara Marie Kirk-Connell, who allegedly stole $534,000 in state unemployment benefits through ID theft. That case is pending in U.S. District Court in Riverside.
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