LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — A Riverside County woman Wednesday pleaded guilty to a federal criminal charge for fraudulently obtaining more than $500,000 in pandemic-related unemployment benefits.

Cara Marie Kirk-Connell, 32, of Menifee, pleaded guilty in Los Angeles to a single charge of credit card fraud, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

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From May to October of this year, Kirk-Connell knowingly used stolen personal information to apply for unemployment insurance benefits in the names of other people, according to the plea agreement. Based upon those fraudulent applications, she obtained multiple debit cards from the California Employment Development Department that contained more than $500,000 in coronavirus-related unemployment benefits.

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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.

In the plea agreement, Kirk-Connell admitted that she purchased the information from the dark web and watched YouTube videos that instructed viewers on how to commit EDD fraud.

Kirk-Connell is scheduled to be back in court April 9 for sentencing. She faces up to 10 years in federal prison.

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