Officers from the Burbank Police Department arrested 20 people on suspicion of unemployment benefits fraud in September, making several of the arrests at a local Bank of America branch.
Unemployment fraud has become more frequent since the COVID-19 pandemic began, according to BPD spokesman Sgt. Derek Green. Cards from the California Employment Development Department are sent to people receiving unemployment benefits, but the BPD has reported that some are getting the cards through fraudulent means, using them to withdraw cash.
In some cases, the department made multiple arrests related to alleged EDD fraud in one day.
On Sept. 25, according to arrest records, officers watching a Bank of America ATM arrested a Los Angeles man they said had multiple debit cards from EDD and a large amount of cash taken from the ATM.
That night, officers also arrested a man from Glendale at the same Bank of America, with arrest records reporting he had five EDD cards that did not belong to him, about $4,000, a fraudulent ID card and heroin.
Less than an hour later, police arrested two people from Studio City and Oakland on suspicion of fraud. Officers reported finding roughly $15,000 in cash and 23 EDD cards between the two.
“Basically, police officers were drawn to the bank after reports of multiple and suspicious ATM withdrawals,” Green said in an email. “In all of the cases, the individuals were detained by officers and found to be in possession of multiple EDD cards in other people’s names, and thousands of dollars in cash.”
Green added that 38 victims were identified in the three incidents.
In total, the BPD made 20 arrests in connection with EDD fraud in September, according to Green, recovering 100 EDD cards and about $115,000 in cash. A loaded gun was also reportedly recovered during one of the arrests.
Unemployment fraud can be reported to the state agency at askedd.edd.ca.gov/Fraud.aspx.
After a modest uptick in August, a crime report aggregate for Burbank shows that incidents have generally dropped to their July levels, according to statistics released by the BPD.
The dip was fairly minor, less than a 5% drop from August’s 214 reported “index crimes” — including a selection of property and violent crimes — to 204 in September. Theft reports, which account for roughly three-quarters of local index crimes, fell from 160 in August to 148 in September.
The crime report statistics could change, according to the BPD, as investigators gain more information.
Through September, the BPD recorded about 1,960 index crime reports this year, the fewest since 2014 for the same period. Some studies have suggested that the pandemic has driven down certain types of crimes, though other kinds of incidents have shown increases.