More defendants plead not guilty in work commission fraud case

Three more defendants enter pleas in connection with a money laundering case, records show.

After this week, the total number of defendants who have pleaded not guilty to money laundering and other fraud charges stands at 10.

Earlier this week, Zimri Jahaciel Sanchez, 25, of West Chester, Ohio; Daniel Omar Cuellar, 28, of McAllen; and Augustin Jaim Martinez-Resendez, 30, of Alton; each separately pleaded not guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, and one count of money laundering, records show.

These defendants joined Jose Luis Gonzalez, 37, of Edinburg; Gerardo Anguiano, 27, Jose Anguiano, 30; both of Edinburg, Luis Chavez, Rene Lopez-Marin, 30, of Donna; Mario Alberto Ortiz Jr., 21, of Pharr; and Raul Zamora Jr., 30, of Brownsville; who also face charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States, according to the indictment against them.

Gonzalez, the Anguianos, Chavez, Lopez-Marin, Ortiz, and Zamora each pleaded not guilty to their respective charges in November, records show.

Gonzalez allegedly conspired with others to steal money from the government by submitting fraudulent unemployment insurance claims at the request of the aforementioned co-conspirators with the Texas Workforce Commission.

According to the complaint against Gonzalez, filed Oct. 22, he would file a fake unemployment insurance claim by “wired communication,” creating a fake employer account, including a fake company, address, company information, hourly wages and telephone number.

The Texas Workforce Commission would mail a “Notice of Application Unemployment Benefits” letter to the fake employer at the address controlled by Gonzalez or one of the co-conspirators, “in order to verify whether the co-conspirator listed on the unemployment insurance claim worked” for the fake employer, the complaint stated.

Gonzalez created several fake businesses, including “Garza’s Welding Service,” “Garza Welding Services,” “Garza Welding,” and “Gonzalez Landscaping & Fencing,” to name a few.

“Upon receipt of the fraudulent response, the TWC would in turn generate and fund a debit card with U.S. currency, funded through the Department of Labor, and mail the debit card to another address controlled by the co-conspirator or Gonzalez,” the documents state.

The complaint alleges that for this help, Gonzalez would charge a fee.

TWC officials claim that Gonzalez and the co-conspirators who ran this scheme from August 2008 to September 2018, submitted roughly 50 fake unemployment insurance claims — resulting in $531,161 in payouts.

All of the defendants, except for Gonzalez who remains in custody, have been granted bonds in their respective cases, records show.

Trial dates are already set for the defendants, with half of the trials beginning in January 2020, and another five scheduled to begin in early February 2020, records show.