California unemployment: 5 arrested in suspected South Bay EDD fraud scheme

SUNNYVALE, Calif. (KGO) -- Five suspects accused of cheating more than thousands of Silicon Valley residents of their EDD benefits have been arrested. 7 On Your Side's Michael Finney has witnessed a surge in these suspected schemes for months and has the latest report.

It started with a 911 call about a home burglary. Investigators tell us a trail of evidence led them to their suspects.

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It all began on the 1100 block of Danbury Street in Sunnyvale.

Police say the suspect stole personal identifiable information, including social security information and credit cards along with utility bills and personal checks.

Authorities identified the suspect as 35-year-old George Ramirez of San Jose.

They tracked Ramirez down at the Larkspur Landing Hotel in Sunnyvale.

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"We were just uncovering more and more evidence that we were just following leads, and it led to the next suspect, and the next suspect, and another search, and another search, and it kind of unfolded that way," said Captain Dan Pistor of the Sunnyvale Police Department.

The investigation led to the arrest of four additional suspects.

Four of the five under arrest are on active parole or community supervision.

"We suspect that this fraud ring had the potential or had access to possibly up to a million dollars of EDD funds," said Captain Pistor.

RELATED: 'People need help': As many as 1 in every 3 EDD claims is fraudulent, security firm says

Authorities believe the men are connected to at least 100 victims -- possibly even thousands.

Luis Castillo says someone stole $1,900 dollars directly from his EDD benefits card.

"It makes me angry because a lot of people, they're struggling and now they have no income going to get food, going to pay their bills," Castillo said.

Castillo works in the restaurant industry and has been on and off unemployment as restaurants close, reopen and close again for various reasons.

Authorities say a special unit set up for the holidays, when home burglaries typically increase, broke open this case.

If you think you've been the victim of EDD-related fraud, visit their website.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

Have a question for Michael and the 7 On Your Side team? Fill out the form HERE!
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