Authorities in Riverside County, California have accused a woman of purchasing personal information from a dark web forum in order to fraudulently obtain more than half a million dollars through the COVID-19’s economic stimulus program to combat unemployment.
32-year-old Cara Marie Kirk-Connell faces charges of identity theft, postal fraud and electronic fraud.
The California attorney’s office mentions that an investigation by local authorities led to the discovery of at least eight debit cards, more than $30,000 in cash, and multiple driver’s licenses under different names. The defendant acknowledged agreeing to give website to purchase stolen personal information in various security incidents. Kirk-Connell says many other people are doing the same thing.
According to his statements, after obtaining information from hundreds of people, Kirk-Connell applied for the unemployment benefit offered by the California Department of Employment Development, operated under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (popularly known as the CARES Act).
The California attorney’s office mentions: “The CARES Act expanded the benefits of our unemployment programs to help those previously ineligible, including business owners, workers, and independent contractors, who saw their income affected during the pandemic.”
The California Department of Employment approved many of these fraudulent applications, made remotely, and sent debit cards to defendant-controlled addresses. After receiving the cards, Kirk-Connell activated them using the social security numbers of the affected users.
Before she was arrested, the defendant had already received about $534,000, spending nearly 270,000 who had withdrawn from various ATMs. At the time of the arrest, the authorities also found a large sum of cash; if found guilty Kirk-Connell could face a sentence of up to 32 years in a federal prison.
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