Eight UC San Diego student identities stolen in unemployment fraud scheme

A federal grand jury has indicted a San Diego man for allegedly using the stolen personal information of UC San Diego students to obtain more than $202,000 in fraudulent unemployment benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nehemiah Joel Weaver, 36, who was arrested on Monday, is charged with 60 counts, including 28 counts of aggravated identity theft, 15 counts of mail fraud, nine counts of wire fraud, five counts of bank fraud, two counts of obstruction of justice and one count of extortion.

If convicted, he faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 2 years in prison for identity theft. Bank fraud charges carry up to 30 years in prison, extortion charges carry up to 3 years in prison, and obstruction of justice charges carry up to 5 years in prison, as well as substantial fines.

Weaver’s ex-girlfriend, co-defendant and former UCSD employee Mia Nikole Bell has admitted to abusing her access as an HR department employee to steal the identities of at least eight students.

According to Bell’s plea agreement, she stole the names, birthdates, and social security numbers of several UCSD students, then gave the personal information to Weaver in late 2019. He then used those stolen identities, as well as identities stolen from other sources. , open bank accounts and obtain loans. Bell is expected to be sentenced in August.

When the pandemic hit in early 2020, Congress passed the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act), which increased unemployment benefits for those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, Weaver continued to use the stolen identities to apply for these benefits from the California State Department of Employment Development. State officials shelled out at least $202,682 in such payments. He also defrauded the Arizona Department of Economic Security in the same way and obtained $27,230 in fraudulent benefits.

Weaver used the money to make numerous purchases at Nike, Gucci, Burberry and Louis Vuitton stores. He also paid $52,597 in cash for a BMW 740i.

Additionally, Weaver is charged with extortion. When he was under investigation, Weaver texted an acquaintance demanding money and threatening to be “charged with fraud”.

Additionally, Weaver was charged with two counts of obstruction of justice. He sent a cooperating witness a picture of the witness’ underage daughter, along with a text message that read “Lol so dead you don’t even know it yet.” He also left a stuffed rat on the car of the same cooperating witness.

In an email to The UCSD Guardian, Associate Director of University Communications Leslie Sepuka reiterated UCSD’s commitment to maintaining the privacy and security of all student data, and explained the measures taken. by UCSD to protect the data entrusted to it.

“UC San Diego is strongly committed to maintaining the confidentiality and security of all data entrusted to us, including student personal information, in accordance with applicable laws and university policies,” Sepuka said. “In addition, all faculty and staff at the university are required to complete annual cybersecurity training and dedicated privacy workshops are available. The university continually seeks to improve, learning from incidents here and at other universities.

More information about the case against Weaver and Bell can be found on the Department of Justice website. Students can learn more about UCSD’s commitment to protecting sensitive information here.

Art by Allen Chen for The UCSD Guardian

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