LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Sentencing was postponed today for a San Dimas man who obtained more than $500,000 in COVID-19-related unemployment benefits in the names of foreign nationals he falsely claimed were local real estate agents hit hard financially by the pandemic.
Bonifacio Jastilana Marinas, 51, pleaded guilty last year to a single federal count of mail fraud. His sentencing hearing was not immediately rescheduled, prosecutors said.
According to his plea agreement, from April to August 2020, Marinas took advantage of provisions in the CARES Act to file 85 unemployment insurance claims with the California Employment Development Department that falsely asserted that the named claimants were self-employed real estate agents in Los Angeles County and their jobs had been adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Marinas often listed his own West Covina real estate business — Vintage Realty & Finance Inc. — as the purported workplace of the named claimants.
In reality, the named claimants resided in Saipan or the Philippines, were not registered as real estate agents in Los Angeles County, had no employment history in California, and were not eligible for the benefits Marinas claimed.
Marinas listed his own residence as the mailing address for each of the named claimants. As a result, the debit cards used to distribute the unemployment benefits were mailed to Marinas, who then used them to withdraw the fraudulently obtained funds, according to court papers filed in Los Angeles federal court.
In his plea agreement, Marinas admitted that his scheme caused losses to EDD and the United States Treasury of at least $516,244.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act passed by Congress and signed into law in March 2020, helped provide unemployment insurance benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic to people who did not otherwise qualify, including business owners, self-employed workers, independent contractors, and those with a limited work history.