Two California employees of the United States Postal Service pleaded guilty Monday to charges that they had illegally procured and cashed tens of thousands of dollars worth of money orders with unemployment benefits using fraudulent pandemic-related job loss claims.
The accused — 31-year-old Christian Jeremyah James, who worked at the Culver City Main Post Office, and 32-year-old Armand Caleb Legardy, who worked at the La Tijera Post Office on Crenshaw Boulevard in South Los Angeles — made their guilty pleas in separate hearings to one count of “use of unauthorized access devices,” according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.
James and Legardly allegedly used debit cards issued by the California Employment Development Department to other people for unemployment insurance benefits from August last year to February this year.
The duo obtained the cards through other unidentified persons who got them using stolen identities and false information, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Two U.S. Postal Service employees plead guilty to using EDD debit cards to illegally purchase thousands of dollars in Postal money orders https://t.co/P67RwFnZOd
— US Attorney L.A. (@USAO_LosAngeles) May 24, 2021
In their plea agreement, the two men said they used the EDD-issued debit cards they unlawfully obtained to buy or cash money orders from the USPS.
They also used the cards to make cash withdrawals amounting to thousands of dollars from ATMs, the U.S. Attorney’s Office stated.
The news release noted that the men also admitted to depositing their fraudulently bought money orders in their own personal bank accounts.
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James reportedly put more than $27,000 worth of illegally obtained money in his account.
Legardy deposited more than $10,000 in his bank account, according to the news release.
The U.S. Attorney’s office reported that James admitted that he wilfully used at least eight EDD debit cards, causing a loss of roughly $142,652.
Legardy admitted to using nine fraudulently procured EDD cards, causing about $160,879 in losses, according to the release. In total, the men have been accused of fraudulently accessing over $340,000.
James’ sentencing hearing was scheduled by U.S. District Judge George Wu for October 7, 2021. Legardy will be sentenced on September 30.
According to the news release, both defendants face a maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison.
Several agencies took part in investigating the incident.
The investigating agencies include the USPS Office of Inspector General, the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General, IRS Criminal Investigation and the California EDD.
The men were first arrested on the morning of March 10, 2021, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. They were charged with “conspiracy, aggravated identity theft, access device fraud, and fraud in connection with major disaster or emergency benefits” at the time of the arrest.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles Pell prosecuted the case. The complaint that led to the duo’s arrest, according to the news release, did not accuse the two men of “submitting the fraudulent applications to the EDD.”