Cara Marie Kirk-Connell, 33, of Menifee, was accused of obtaining dates of birth and Social Security numbers that she knew had been stolen and accessed via the darknet. She also confessed to watching YouTube videos on how to commit unemployment insurance fraud and then applying for unemployment insurance benefits from the California Employment Development Department (EDD).
During a September 2020 traffic stop, police found eight EDD debit cards in other people’s names in Kirk-Connell’s possession, along with $10,000 in cash. In total, Kirk-Connell used about 50 unauthorized devices to access about $534,149 in benefits from May to October 2020, of which she spent nearly $270,000.
Prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memorandum, “During the COVID pandemic over the past year, criminals have robbed the state of California of billions [of dollars] by engaging in identity theft to fraudulently obtain unemployment benefits from EDD. [Kirk-Connell] was part of that scourge.”