A Moses Lake man is pleading guilty to illegally funneling unemployment benefits while working for the state Employment Security Department.

In a plea deal, Reyes De La Cruz admits he used his access to the claims database to improperly send benefits to himself or people who paid him a bribe.

The charges say de la Cruz fraudulently obtained $130,000 for himself and $360,000 for fraudulent claims.

According to court documents, de la Cruz had improperly sent unemployment benefits to his debit card six times for sums ranging from $12,240 to $39,160. The documents also show he accepted bribes at least nine times for sending the benefits to people who did not qualify for them.

He pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday, and is awaiting sentencing in September.

Prosecutors say de la Cruz was hired as an intake agent in 2020 to help the Employment Security Department process unemployment claims, which were spiking during the pandemic. He'd previously worked for the department from 1996 to 2003.

Court records show de la Cruz allegedly used his employee access to the claims database to defraud the benefits system over a roughly nine-month period from July 2020 to March 2021.

He worked remotely from his home in Moses Lake during a time when the COVID-19 pandemic was peaking.

de la Cruz pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court in Tacoma to charges of Fraud, Bribery and Aggravated Identity Theft.

He'll be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Robert Bryan.

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