Menu Close

Federal authorities just arrested five people linked to a ring that allegedly obtained at least $2 million in California unemployment insurance (UI) benefits – mostly pandemic-related relief – by using stolen identities, some of which belonged to California prison inmates.

The arrests were made following a 39-count indictment that charges 13 defendants in a scheme to use misappropriated personal identifying information (PII) to fraudulent apply for, and receive, unemployment benefits, mostly during the second half of 2020.

The lead defendant in the case is Natalie Le Demola, 37, who is currently serving a life prison sentence after she was convicted in 2005 of first-degree murder for killing her mother. The indictment also charges Carleisha Neosha Plummer, 32, of Los Angeles, who was a close associate of Demola in prison until she was paroled in July 2020.

DeMola has been serving a life sentence at the California Institution for Women since 2005 when she and her then-boyfriend, Terry Bell, were convicted of first-degree murder for beating her mother to death at their Corona, Calif., home in 2001. DeMola, who was 16 at the time, and Bell, who was 17, had plotted to kill her mother because she objected to them dating, according to news reports from their trial.

DeMola allegedly procured the personal details, including dates of birth and social security numbers, of other inmates and their visitors from a prison associate who had access to a database containing that info. She would then send the details on to her accomplices outside the prison who would use them to file for fraudulent unemployment benefits which they would have sent to mail boxes they controlled, prosecutors said.

Prison inmates are not eligible for unemployment benefits, but the gang would check boxes on the application stating they were not incarcerated, according to court documents.

The indictment charges all 13 defendants with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud. The conspiracy count alleges 150 overt acts, including illegally obtaining PII, some of which was provided by an unnamed prison official employed by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

The indictment names various defendants in 31 bank fraud counts and seven aggravated identity theft counts. The defendants named in the indictment are:

– – Demola, originally of Corona, who will be brought to federal court to face the charges in this case;
– – Plummer, 32, of Los Angeles, who was arrested today;
– – Khanshanda King, 31, of Los Angeles, who is still being sought;
– – Cleshay Johnson II, 28, of Los Angeles, who is still being sought;
– – James Antonio Johnson, who has several aliases including  “Big Dawg Niddy,” 31, of Los Angeles, who is currently in custody in a Los Angeles County jail;
– – Felicite Aleisha King, 41, of Los Angeles, who is still being sought;
– – Shafequah Lynete Mitchell, 33, of Los Angeles, who is currently traveling outside of California;
– – Loresha Shamone Davis, 31, of Moreno Valley, who was arrested today;
– – Porsha Latrice Johnson, 32, of Lynwood, who was arrested today;
– – Donisha Lashawn Pace, 38, of South Los Angeles, who was arrested today;
– – Dominique Charmone Martin, 37, of Yucaipa, who is still being sought;
– – Mykara Destiny Robertson, 23, of Los Angeles, who is still being sought; and
– – Amber Jane Wade, 34, of Palmdale, who was arrested today.

The conspiracy and bank fraud charges each carry a statutory maximum sentence of 30 years in federal prison. Aggravated identity theft carries a mandatory two-year consecutive sentence.