A Moreno Valley man and woman who conspired with a Riverside County jail inmate to steal $18,000 in unemployment insurance benefits by filing a series of fraudulent claims pleaded guilty Friday to conspiracy to commit fraud and were immediately sentenced to terms of probation.

Blake Thomas Fallon, 52, admitted the conspiracy count, as well as perjury and filing false earnings statements for purposes of theft, while his girlfriend, 45-year-old Jennifer Rose Kaye, admitted only the conspiracy charge.

They made the admissions at the outset of a preliminary hearing before Superior Court Judge O.G. Magno. It was not immediately clear whether the pleas were part of an agreement with prosecutors, or were proffered and accepted by the judge alone.

Kaye was sentenced to one year of felony probation, and Fallon was sentenced to 90 days in county jail and two years probation. Fallon will not have to commence his detention until Jan. 14, according to court records.

The pair’s co-defendant, 58-year-old Brian Jay Davison, was sentenced in July to nine years in state prison following a jury trial that led to his conviction for involuntary manslaughter and assault resulting in great bodily injury for the 2019 death of a man at a Moreno Valley mobile home park, where Davidson worked as a part-time security enforcement agent.

Davidson admitted a conspiracy charge connected with the jobless claims ripoff during his sentencing, but the felony count was not factored into his prison term.

He, Fallon and Kaye are friends and were identified during an investigation handled by the D.A.’s Bureau of Investigation.

“What is particularly offensive about these crimes is that these criminals are stealing much-needed benefits from people experiencing extreme economic hardship because of the (coronavirus public health) lockdowns,” Hestrin said at the time the trio were arrested. “We as state and local government officials have to cooperate with one another to make sure this never happens again.”

The defendants procured funds from the Employment Development Department by claiming they had lost work and income after the lockdowns went into effect in the spring of 2020. According to prosecutors, Fallon and Kaye used Davidson’s personal information to file for unemployment benefits with his consent.

A report released on Jan. 28 by California State Auditor Elaine Howle estimated the EDD last year disbursed at least $10.4 billion in benefits based on fraudulent claims.

The claims, up and down the state, related to the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance provided under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief & Economic Security Act, according to officials.

The audit uncovered instances in which the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General flagged nearly 3 million unemployment claims as likely connected to fraud, but the EDD failed to respond proactively to stanch it.

The audit indicated more than $800 million in benefits were distributed to prisoners.

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