Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla, image via Google Street View

published on May 17, 2022 - 9:23 AM
Written by The Business Journal Staff

An inmate at Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla and her mother have been charged with unemployment insurance fraud, accused of filing clams of more than half a million dollars.

A federal indictment unsealed Tuesday charged Makiah Miles, 29, originally of Compton, with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and identity theft. The indictment also names her mother, Apryl Weston, 50, of Santa Maria.

From June through December 2020, Miles, an inmate at the Chowchilla prison, and Weston took advantage of changes to California Employment Development Department (EDD) eligibility criteria in response to the pandemic, according to U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert.

Specifically, Miles is accused of obtaining other inmates’ personal information and providing it to Weston to submit claims in those inmates’ identities as well as her own identity. The underlying applications contained several misrepresentations, including that Miles and the other inmates had been self-employed as accountants, beauty culturists, child care providers, cosmetologists, hairdressers and other occupations, and that they recently became unemployed because of the pandemic.

The claims were worth more than $550,000. The defendants used the money to purchase handbags, jewelry and televisions, among other items, according to court documents.

The case is the product of an investigation by the FBI, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s Investigative Services Unit and the EDD. Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Barton is prosecuting the case.

If convicted, the defendants could face a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and $250,000 fine for the conspiracy charge and a mandatory, two-year consecutive sentence and additional $250,000 for the aggravated identity theft charges. Final sentencing would be determined at the discretion of the court.

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