Man Charged with Using Stolen Identities of UCSD Students in Bank and Pandemic Unemployment Insurance Fraud Schemes

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FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen at the United States Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Assistant U. S. Attorney Eric R. Olah (619) 546-7540    

NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – May 11, 2022

SAN DIEGO – Nehemiah Joel Weaver was indicted by a federal grand jury for using stolen personal information of University of California San Diego students in furtherance of bank and pandemic unemployment insurance fraud schemes.

Weaver is charged with 60 felony counts, including bank fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, extortion, and obstruction of justice. 

Weaver’s co-defendant, Mia Nikole Bell, entered a guilty plea last week to one count of felony bank fraud.  In her plea agreement, Bell admitted that when she was an employee at UCSD, she stole the personal identifiable information (“PII”) of at least eight students and shared it with the intent to facilitate a bank fraud scheme.  Bell’s sentencing is set for August 15, 2022.

The indictment charges Weaver with using identities he obtained from Bell and other sources.  Specifically, Weaver used stolen identities to apply for accounts and loans at a financial institution, to obtain more than $200,000 in benefit payments from the State of California’s Employment Development Department (“EDD”), and to defraud the State of Arizona’s Department of Economic Security (“DES”) out of more than $27,000.

As part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020, Congress provided new unemployment benefits for those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic who would not otherwise qualify for unemployment insurance.  The EDD administers unemployment insurance benefits in California, and DES does the same in Arizona.

Additionally, the indictment includes an extortion charge based on text messages Weaver sent to an acquaintance demanding money and threatening that a third person would be “charged with fraud.”  The indictment also includes an obstruction of justice count based in part on Weaver sending to a victim a photograph of the victim’s minor daughter along with text messages reading “Lol so dead you don’t even know it yet” and “Can’t wait to see the look on your face.  Paid good money to see it.”

U.S. Magistrate Judge Barbara L. Major ordered Weaver detained pending trial based on a serious risk of flight and danger to the community.  The next court hearing is a Motion Hearing and Trial Setting before U.S. District Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel on June 13, 2022.

If you think you are a victim of COVID-19 fraud, immediately report it the FBI (visit ic3.gov, tips.fbi.gov, or call 1-800-CALL-FBI or the San Diego FBI at 858-320-1800.  In addition, the public is urged to report suspected fraud schemes related to COVID-19 by calling the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) hotline (1-866-720-5721) or by e-mailing the NCDF at disaster@leo.gov.

DEFENDANTS                                             Case Number 21-CR-2722-GPC                             

Nehemiah Joel Weaver                                               Age: 36                                   San Diego, CA

Mia Nikole Bell                                                          Age: 31                                   Houston, TX

SUMMARY OF CHARGES

Bank Fraud – Title 18, U.S.C., Section 1344(1)

Maximum penalty: Thirty years in prison, $1 million fine or twice the pecuniary gain/loss

Mail Fraud – Title 18, U.S.C., Section 1341

Maximum penalty: Twenty years in prison; $250,000 fine or twice the pecuniary gain/loss

Mail Fraud – Title 18, U.S.C., Section 1343

Maximum penalty: Twenty years in prison; $250,000 fine or twice the pecuniary gain/loss

Aggravated Identity Theft – Title 18, U.S.C., Section 1028A

Penalty: Mandatory two years in prison

Extortion – Title 18, U.S.C., Section 875(d)

Maximum penalty: Two years in prison

Obstruction of Justice – Title 18, U.S.C., Section 1503

Maximum penalty: Ten years in prison; $250,000

Forfeiture – Title 18, U.S.C., Sections 981(a)(1)(C), 982(a)(2), 982(b) and Title 28 U.S.C. Section 2461(c)

AGENCIES

United States Secret Service

San Diego Police Department

*The charges and allegations contained in an indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.