SANTA ANA (CBSLA) — A Riverside County woman is facing identity theft charges after allegedly obtaining more than $500,000 in unemployment benefits from the state by using personal information obtained from the “dark web.”
Cara Marie Kirk-Connell, 32, of Menifee, was charged Friday with identity theft, mail fraud and access device fraud after police say she admitted to applying for unemployment benefits from the California Employment Development Department using that illegally obtained information.
Police also said Kirk-Connell admitted that once she applied for those benefits, she would have the debit cards sent to an address where she would receive them and would then active the cards using the victims’ Social Security numbers and make numerous ATM withdrawals and other expenditures.
According to an affidavit filed with the complaint, police interviewed Kirk-Connell following a Sept. 11 traffic stop in which officers seized eight debit cards containing unemployment benefits in other people’s names, more than $30,000 in cash and several driver’s licenses for different motorists.
EDD records showed that the cards and identities Kirk-Connell possessed had been used to apply for and authorize approximately $534,149 in COVID-related unemployment benefits from the EDD — of which nearly $270,000 had already been spent, according to the affidavit.
Kirk-Connell is expected to make her initial court appearance Oct. 13 in Riverside. If convicted as charged, she faces a statutory maximum sentence of 32 years in federal prison.