Crime and Courts

Husband and wife plead guilty in San Diego to part in $5.2M unemployment fraud

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 A Romanian husband and wife who participated in a scheme that prosecutors say took more than $5 million in unearned California unemployment benefits pleaded guilty to fraud and money laundering charges Thursday in San Diego federal court.

Eduard Buse, 30, and Florentina Sima, 29, were among 14 people indicted for recruiting and helping hundreds of people apply for California Employment Development Department benefits using fraudulent documents.

The U.S. Attorney's Office says in total, nearly $5.2 million in false claims were paid out by the state.

Buse took over $28,000 in benefits personally and also helped secure $244,050 in payouts to 14 people, including his wife, according to his plea agreement.

The couple sent nearly $200,000 in fraud proceeds to Romania, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office, and Buse also used money gained from the fraud to buy a 2020 BMW X6 for $105,044.

Romanian authorities later seized the BMW, along with cash and several luxury watches, all of which the defendants have agreed to forfeit as part of their pleas.

San Diego U.S. Attorney Tara McGrath said in a statement, "These COVID relief funds were meant to provide critical financial relief during the pandemic. Instead, the money was used to buy luxury cars and jewelry."

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