A North County woman who took part in a scheme to use prison and jail inmates’ personal information to fraudulently obtain unemployment benefits was sentenced Wednesday to two years of probation, which includes about four months of home confinement.
Stacy Wright, 62, pleaded guilty to her role in a scheme that took more than $1 million from the state’s Employment Development Department.
Wright’s co-defendants include her son, 35-year-old Ryan Kubista, and Kubista’s wife, 34-year-old Maereichelle Marquez, both of whom also pleaded guilty and were sentenced to state prison terms last year.
According to prosecutors, after fraudulently applying for the benefits, the trio had the EDD benefits and Bank of America debit cards mailed to their homes or P.O. boxes in Escondido, Carlsbad and Vista. The defendants netted the illegal payments by using at least 64 inmates’ identities to apply for the benefits, according to the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office.
A restitution hearing was set for March.
Wright’s attorney, Ari Lieberman, said in court that his client’s role was relatively minor, and involved opening a P.O. box that fraudulent benefits were sent to, and using EDD debit cards to withdraw about $5,000 in total from ATMs on four occasions.
Lieberman said that unlike the other two defendants, Wright was not involved in opening any of the fraudulent EDD accounts involved in the case.
Deputy District Attorney Cari Philpott alleged Wright’s role was larger than presented by the defense and that she “was involved from the beginning to the end.”
The prosecutor said Wright’s home address was also used to receive the fraudulent benefits and that the four ATM transactions referenced by the defense represent only some of the total withdrawals Wright made.
The scheme is one of numerous similar cases across California related to accusations of prison inmates and others defrauding the state unemployment benefit system amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Officials last year said that at least $20 billion in fraudulent unemployment payments were sent out, accounting for more than 10% of all benefits the state paid during the pandemic.