Riverside County woman sentenced in million-dollar unemployment fraud scheme


A Riverside County woman was sentenced this week to 4½ years in prison for her role in bilking California’s unemployment insurance benefit program of more than $1.1 million, authorities said.

Catrina Gipson, 47, of Moreno Valley, was sentenced Thursday in federal court in Los Angeles, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Gipson was also ordered to pay $1,106,282 in restitution.

Gipson pleaded guilty last summer to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft.


Prosecutors said Gipson was the ringleader of a scheme in which she and relatives drew bogus unemployment claims from fake businesses they’d registered with the California Employment Development Department.

Between 2013 and 2016, Gipson recruited friends and family to manage the fictitious businesses and their phony unemployment claims, authorities said. They routed mail for phony retail outfits through multiple post office boxes and drew down their unemployment benefits — issued through EDD debit cards — using different banks.

Some of the claims were made in Gipson’s name, others in the names of her seven accomplices, authorities said. At least nine claims were made in the names of prison inmates, who were serving time when they were allegedly laid off, court records show. One individual had been incarcerated since 2000.

Gipson and her accomplices were arrested in 2020. Vernisha Jolivet, 30, who was named as a co-conspirator, has also pleaded guilty to a single count of wire fraud in connection with the case and was sentenced to six months in prison.

The remaining six defendants are expected to stand trial this spring.