Moses Lake Man Gets 5 Years For Altering Jobless Claims
A Moses Lake man will spend five years in federal prison for three felony convictions.
48-year-old Reyes De La Cruz, III was found guilty of fraudulently distributing at least $360,000 in pandemic-related unemployment benefits
De La Cruz modified unemployment claims while working for the Washington State’s Employment Security Department (ESD), and would take a portion for himself.
Prosecutors say he personally gained at least $130,000 through the scheme.
De La Cruz was hired as an intake agent in April 2020 to help the Employment Security Department (ESD) deal with the crush of filings for pandemic unemployment benefits.
He previously worked for the department in the late 90s and early 2000s.
De La Cruz altered claims while he had access to the ESD database between July 3, 2020, and March 15, 2021.
Prosecutors say that in at least ten instances, he accepted bribes in exchange for engineering benefit payments for his friends, family, or acquaintances by making false entries in the claims database.
In many cases, the person did not qualify for benefits, but De La Cruz manipulated the claims database so that the person received lumpsum retroactive payments that sometimes amounted to tens of thousands of dollars.
The claimants would then pay De La Cruz a portion of the lumpsum.
The bribes ranged from $500-$6,500. In total, De La Cruz enriched himself nearly $21,000 through kickback payments.
Prosecutors say that in some instances, when claimants refused or resisted paying De La Cruz, he threatened to terminate the claim if they did not pay him.
De La Cruz' five year sentence comes after he pleaded guilty to in June to bribery, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.