Riverside police investigators sought the public’s help Monday to locate four men suspected of fraudulently claiming unemployment benefits, using identity theft and other means to collect state money.
According to Riverside Police Department Officer Ryan Railsback, felony warrants have been issued for each man, but detectives have made little progress tracking down any of them.
They are: Markel LaShawen Johnson, 24, of San Jacinto, Preston Lamar Lynch Jr., 19, of Riverside, Taiwo Oluwatumininu, 31, of Hawthorne, and Brandon Wills, 35, of Riverside.
Railsback said the suspects were involved in different ripoff schemes going back to August, when the California Employment Development Department’s processing of jobless benefits began to come under legislative scrutiny because of claims being paid out in different states and to prison inmates amid the public health lockdowns.
A report released by California State Auditor Elaine Howle on Jan. 28 estimated that in 2020, EDD disbursed at least $10.4 billion in benefits based on fraudulent claims.
“Our community members were discovering their own information was being illegally used for fraud and that large amounts of mail from EDD were being sent to their homes in other people’s names,” Railsback said.
“To make matters worse, suspects would show up at these victims’ homes either asking or demanding the EDD mail.”
Johnson and Lynch each allegedly stole $20,000 in unemployment benefits, according to Railsback. Oluwatumininu’s take may have been as much as $100,000, while Wills’ theft was close to $23,000, Railsback said.
The police department’s Economic Crimes Unit is handling the investigation.
Anyone with information on the suspects was asked to contact detectives at 951-351-7118.