LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A Pasadena man is scheduled to be arraigned today on federal charges alleging he used stolen identities to fraudulently obtain unemployment insurance benefits under the coronavirus federal relief act, which he later used to purchase a Maserati luxury SUV.
Robert Sloan Mateer, 30, is named in a five-count indictment charging him with possession of at least 15 or more unauthorized access devices with intent to defraud, aggravated identity theft, possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, and being a felon in possession of ammunition, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
If convicted of all charges, Mateer would face between 17 years and life in prison.
According to an affidavit, during a traffic stop on Oct. 1, Pasadena police officers arrested Mateer and found inside his Maserati 17 unemployment benefits debit cards, several other credit and debit cards, $197,711 in cash, more than 85 grams of methamphetamine, and a loaded firearm with no serial number.
Prosecutors allege that evidence gathered during the investigation determined that at least 14 of the 17 debit cards were loaded with at least $133,000 in unemployment insurance benefits, later determined to have been issued under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act passed by Congress in March, and had been issued in the names of third-parties, including identity theft victims.
The California Employment Development Department distributes unemployment insurance benefits under the CARES Act, which expanded unemployment benefits to cover those who were previously ineligible, including business owners, self-employed workers and independent contractors, who were put out of business or significantly reduced their services because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the affidavit, Mateer admitted to obtaining the unemployment benefits debit cards by using "thousands" of identity profiles in his possession, that each debit card was loaded with $14,500, and that he used the fraudulently obtained unemployment benefits to purchase the Maserati.
Mateer also admitted that he withdrew the $197,711 in cash found in his Maserati from ATMs across the Los Angeles area, the affidavit states.
Mateer also allegedly withdrew $13,840 from the EDD debit cards in his possession from Sept. 19 to Sept. 25.
Mateer was taken into federal custody on Oct. 21 and was ordered detained pending trial.