Woman Serving Life in California Prison Led $2 Million Unemployment Fraud Scheme, Prosecutors Say

LOS ANGELES — Federal authorities have charged 13 people and arrested five in connection with a California unemployment insurance benefits scheme they believe generated at least $2 million under the direction of a state prison inmate.

Natalie Le DeMola, a 37-year-old woman serving a life sentence for first-degree murder, has been named ringleader, the US attorney’s office for the Central District of California said Tuesday. Carleisha Neosha Plummer, a 32-year-old Los Angeles resident and close associate of DeMola, was also named by authorities.

A 39-count indictment charges DeMola, Plummer and 11 others with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, prosecutors said. The conspiracy charge alleges 150 overt acts, including illegally obtaining personally identifiable information, some of which prosecutors say was provided by an unidentified state prison employee.

The indictment also names multiple defendants in 31 counts of bank fraud and seven counts of aggravated identity theft.

According to authorities, the fraud ring used stolen identities, including some belonging to state prison inmates, to collect unemployment benefits, most of which were pandemic-related aid, during the second half of 2020.

Members of the fraud ring “acquired (information), such as names, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers, from people, including victims of identity theft, who were not eligible for [unemployment insurance] benefits, including pandemic benefits, because they were employed, retired, or incarcerated,” the indictment alleges.

The conspirators used the information to apply online for California Employment Development Department benefits, prosecutors alleged.

After the applications were approved, the defendants were able to withdraw money from ATMs throughout Southern California, according to the indictment.

DeMola, a native of Corona, was already in state prison as of the recent federal indictment, prosecutors said.

She was a teenager when she, her boyfriend and an acquaintance conspired to kill her mother in April 2001, court documents show.

At the time, DeMola, then 16, was a swimmer at Centennial High School and frequently argued with her mother about her relationship with her boyfriend of 17 years, Terry Lee Bell, according to a federal judge’s report filed in 2015 in response. . to a request for post-conviction relief.

After DeMola’s mother yelled at her daughter and drove her home to find her at a fast food restaurant with Bell and 17-year-old Christopher Long, the two teens joked about “torturing” DeMola’s mother, and DeMola and Bell communicated via email. and instant messages for weeks about her mother through April 10, 2001, according to the report.

That day, the couple and Long beat DeMola’s mother to death, according to a state appeals court ruling released in 2007. Police found DeMola’s mother unconscious on the floor of her home in a pool of blood. . She had her ribs, nose, jaw and skull broken.

DeMola and Bell were convicted of first-degree murder with special circumstances lying in wait and torture-murder, and were sentenced to life in prison without parole. Long was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to 25 years to life. Several petitions by defendants for post-conviction relief have proven unsuccessful. State prison records show they remain incarcerated.

In the unemployment benefits case, co-defendant Plummer had been paroled in July 2020 and was arrested Tuesday.

The other defendants named in the indictment are:

— Khanshanda King, 31, of Los Angeles, who remains at large.

— Cleshay Johnson II, 28, of Los Angeles, who remains at large.

— James Antonio Johnson, 31, of Los Angeles, who goes by several aliases, including “Big Dawg Niddy,” and is in custody at a Los Angeles County jail.

— Congratulate Aleisha King, 41, of Los Angeles, who remains at large.

— Shafequah Lynete Mitchell, 33, of Los Angeles, traveling out of California.

— Loresha Shamone Davis, 31, of Moreno Valley, who was arrested Tuesday.

— Porsha Latrice Johnson, 32, of Lynwood, who was arrested Tuesday.

— Donisha Lashawn Pace, 38, of South Los Angeles, who was arrested Tuesday.

— Dominique Charmone Martin, 37, of Yucaipa, who remains at large.

— Mykara Destiny Robertson, 23, of Los Angeles, who remains at large.

— Amber Jane Wade, 34, of Palmdale, who was arrested Tuesday.

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

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