Courtroom gavel
A courtroom gavel. File photo

A man who used stolen personal information from UC San Diego students to apply for bank accounts, loans and hundreds of thousands of dollars in unemployment benefits was sentenced Thursday to nearly four years in prison.

Nehemiah Joel Weaver pleaded guilty to obtaining student information through his then-girlfriend and co-defendant, Mia Nikole Bell. She also pleaded guilty and was sentenced last year to four months in prison, plus eight months of home detention.

According to prosecutors, Bell worked in a human resources role at UCSD and had access to the identities of students who were hired as campus tour guides.

She provided information from at least eight students to Weaver, who used the identifying information to apply for checking accounts, saving accounts and credit loans.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, he also used stolen identities to net more than $200,000 in unemployment benefit payments from California’s Employment Development Department and more than $27,000 from Arizona’s Department of Economic Security.

An indictment states he used stolen funds to buy a BMW 740i and made a number of other luxury purchases.

At the time of the offenses, Weaver was on probation for a similar crime out of Michigan, in which prosecutors say he stole the identities of college students.

Prosecutors also allege Weaver sent death threats to another person he believed was cooperating with law enforcement. The indictment alleges Weaver sent that person a series of threats via text messages, including ones that read, “San Diego too small you won’t be able to hide forever” and “Lol so dead you don’t even know it yet.”

Weaver’s defense attorney, Jesus Mosqueda, asked for a three-year sentence, which he said would be sufficient to punish Weaver, but short enough to get him back into the workplace so he could begin accumulating money in order to repay the victims.

During his sentencing hearing in San Diego federal court. Weaver apologized and said, “This is one of the biggest mistakes I’ve ever made in my life. … I know saying sorry won’t change what happened but I’m willing to stand here and accept responsibility for what I did.”

U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who ultimately sentenced Weaver to 46 months in prison, asked Weaver what led him to commit the offenses.

“Instead of continuing on my path of working, I think I just started making the wrong decisions,” Weaver said. “Everything just went downhill because I was trying to provide this life that I couldn’t afford when I should have just kept working and I would have eventually got there.”

In addition to custody, Weaver was ordered to pay restitution of just over $225,000.

— City News Service