SACRAMENTO, Calif. — An east coast man has been charged with five counts of wire fraud for allegedly stealing the identities of citizens living in California’s capital city, over 2,000 miles away, and filing fraudulent unemployment insurance claims pretending to be them.
Eric Jaklitsch of New Jersey was arrested in early December after the FBI, DHS, and California’s Employment Development Department wrapped up a year-long investigation, claiming they had linked him to 78 fraudulent UI claims. Jaklitsch allegedly attempted to steal over $2.5 million from the state, successfully coming away with around $900,000.
According to court documents, Jaklitsch used fake IDs and selfies where he wore a wig to bypass EDD’s identity verification process while filing for unemployment insurance. Dozens of debit cards were later mailed to his apartment, each of them tied to a fraudulent claim that he made cash withdrawals on.
Investigators reference seven fraudulent claims allegedly made by Jaklitsch, three of them being made using the names and addresses of people living in Sacramento. In them, Jaklitsch allegedly claimed to be a zookeeper, a bank teller, a fitness instructor, and a museum director – all making over $100,000 and being laid off due to the pandemic.
After Jaklitsch bypassed the ID verification using a photoshopped driver’s license and disguised selfie, officials say, the EDD would accept the claim and begin paying unemployment benefits – which Jaklitsch would pick up in the form of cash at several ATMs around New Jersey. Federal agents attached several photos of a man, who appears to be Jaklitsch, surveilled making withdrawals from ATM machines in Roselle, Chatham Main, and Hoboken.
Court documents say an internal investigation ran by the company Jaklitsch submitted IDs to, ID.Me, uncovered the man’s fake claims and blew the whistle to federal law enforcement. They took over the case shortly after.
Jaklitsch’s arrest is the latest in a rising pattern of criminal activity related to state and federal programs meant to assist during the pandemic. Investigators say criminals use tactics, similar to the ones Jaklitsch is accused of using, to pull a fast one on the government and come away with ill-gotten gains.
Several defendants at the local level in Sacramento have been convicted and sentenced for allegedly swindling the state out of hundreds of thousands of dollars to fill claims for unemployment and disability insurance.
“Law enforcement across the state has witnessed staggering EDD fraud committed by criminals and their accomplices,” District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert has previously said. “Sacramento’s law enforcement agencies will continue to partner together to investigate EDD fraud.”