LOS ANGELES (STL.News) A Pasadena man is scheduled to be arraigned today on federal charges alleging he used stolen identities to fraudulently obtain unemployment insurance benefits, which he later used to purchase a Maserati luxury SUV.
A federal grand jury on December 2 named Robert Sloan Mateer, 30, 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 an affidavit in support of a criminal complaint filed in this case, during a traffic stop on October 1, Pasadena Police officers arrested Mateer and found inside his Maserati 17 unemployment benefits debit cards, several other credit and debit cards, approximately $197,711 in cash, more than 85 grams of methamphetamine, and a loaded firearm with no serial number.
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 (CARES) 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 (EDD) 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 approximately $14,500, and that he used the fraudulently obtained unemployment benefits to purchase the Maserati automobile.
Mateer also admitted that he withdrew the approximately $197,711 in cash found in his Maserati from ATMs across the Los Angeles area, the affidavit states. Mateer also allegedly withdrew approximately $13,840 from the EDD debit cards in his possession from September 19 to September 25.
Mateer was taken into federal custody on October 21 and was ordered detained pending trial.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
If convicted of all charges, Mateer would face a statutory mandatory minimum sentence of 17 years and a statutory maximum sentence of life in prison.
This matter was investigated by United States Postal Inspection Service.
Assistant United States Attorney Jason C. Pang of the International Narcotics, Money Laundering, and Racketeering Section and Anna P. Farias-Eisner of the General Crimes Section are prosecuting this case. Assistant United States Attorney Jonathan S. Galatzan of the Asset Forfeiture Section provided substantial assistance in this matter.