Pleading guilty in fraud case against California unemployment agency

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One person charged in unemployment insurance fraud case, prosecutors say raised $1.2 million of the troubled California Department of Employment Development pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court in Sacramento, and a second could plead guilty next week in the case.

The fraud ring operated out of a Maryland apartment and included more than 200 claims filed with the EDD from the same Hyattsville apartment address, with the state agency ultimately approving payments on 97 of them, court documents said.

Three men have been charged in the case, which prosecutors said targeted Arizona, Maryland and North Carolina, as well as California.

One of the men pleaded guilty Tuesday before U.S. District Judge Dale A. Drozd.

Ayodeji Jonathan Sangode, a 24-year-old college student and chef, pleaded guilty to access device fraud, a felony that carries up to 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The charge is related to Sangode’s use of a Bank of America debit card loaded with $5,000 in fraudulently obtained EDD funds, and sentencing is set for Jan. 10. Sangod’s interests were represented by William F. Portonova.

Nigerian national Kwasim Owolabi Adeyinka was expected to enter a guilty plea on Tuesday, but his case was delayed for a week following a request by his federal defender, Doug Beavers.

“The plan is still to plead guilty at some point, but I think next week we’ll have it all figured out,” Beavers said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Artuz did not object to the delay, but noted that the deadline for Odeyinka to sign the plea agreement is Wednesday.

Both men are in custody and appeared at the Zoom hearing. Charges against the third accused, Olamide Yusuf Bakare, are pending and his next hearing is scheduled for November.

Court documents say the scam involved filing unemployment claims claiming people had lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic as an accountant, computer consultant, librarian or other job, and mostly targeted California’s EDD , which was the subject fraud worldwide during the pandemic that led to $20 billion fraud.

Sam Stanton has been with The Bee since 1991 and covers a variety of topics including politics, criminal justice and breaking news.

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