Written by Frank Lopez
A U.S. district court judge in Fresno sentenced a farm labor supervisor to three years and three months in prison for mail fraud related to an unemployment insurance fraud scheme.
According to court documents, Fernando Alanis, 55, of Rio Grande City, Texas, and others were involved in a scheme to defraud the California Employment Development Department (EDD) of insurance benefits while he was working as a supervisor with a Central Valley farm labor contractor. Alanis would hire and supervise crew bosses and organize the hiring of other laborers.
Alanis provided personal information of individuals, such as relatives and other acquaintances, to workers, some of whom were undocumented, so they could obtain employment under the assumed identities.
They would then work as seasonal farm laborers and earn wages. When the workers were laid off once the season ended, with the help of Alanis, false and fraudulent unemployment claims were filed in the names of the assumed identities.
The EDD then sent unemployment insurance checks and benefit debit cards to the addresses of the owners of assumed identities, who were not actually entitled to benefits. The individuals lending their identities would share some of the benefits with Alanis, or pay him in advance of the unemployment insurance claims being made.
Alanis direct and indirect conduct cost the EDD approximately $456,548.
“As a supervisor for a large Central Valley farm labor contractor, Fernando Alanis devised a scheme to defraud the U.S. Department of Labor’s unemployment insurance program for his own personal benefit. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to combat fraud against programs of the Department designed to assist unemployed workers,” said Abel Salinas, Special Agent-in-Charge, Los Angeles Region, U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General.
Agencies involved in this case include the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE), and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).