Two Indian American women found guilty of lying to a California Grand Jury in a $14 million benefits fraud scheme

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After a six-day trial, a federal jury in California found two Indian-American women guilty of making false statements before a grand jury in a case involving $14 million in unemployment and disability fraud.

Harjit Kaur Johal, 50, and Jasvir Kaur, 47, were found guilty March 24, of making false declarations before a grand jury, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California Phillip A. Talbert announced.

Johal and Kaur are scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr. on June 16. and could face a maximum statutory penalty of five years in prison.

According to evidence presented at trial, the women participated in a series of unemployment and disability fraud schemes in Yuba City, organized by members of the Khan family which included Mohammad Nawaz Khan, Mohammad Adnan Khan, Mohammad Shahbaz Khan, and Mohammad Riaz Khan.

The organizers set up a series of farm labor contracting businesses that claimed to provide labor to harvest crops in Sutter and Yuba Counties. They then sold fraudulent paystubs to other people, including the defendants, and reported false wages to the Employment Development Department.

Those who purchased the paystubs would subsequently file for unemployment or disability benefits with the EDD based upon fictitious wages. Because the amount of the benefits that the EDD pays is based upon the claimant’s prior earnings, the participants would pay the Khans to report high wages to the EDD.

In 2014, the accused were subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury investigating the fraud scheme. During their testimony, when questioned about their wages, Johal and Jasvir Kaur claimed under oath that they picked peaches for Ray Khan for at least eight hours a day, six days a week June through September, and that they did not commit fraud. Both also claimed that they worked on other tasks in the orchards for hours every day after picking peaches.

Testimony from individuals with knowledge of Ray Khan’s real employees established that he did not employ the defendants.

In addition, evidence presented at trial showed the defendants had reported chronic back and knee problems in prior disability claims with the EDD and were not capable of doing the physically intensive work required by peach picking. Finally, evidence at trial established that the women purchased paystubs from Ray Khan so that he would report falsely inflated wages to the EDD, which the two could then use to claim the maximum possible amount of unemployment benefits. Both defendants had participated in previous fraud schemes with other Khan family members and had already claimed benefits in excess of $30,000 each, the press release said.

The trial of the two women was the latest in a series of cases involving the Khan family’s alleged fraud schemes, which according to law enforcement, amounted to more than $14 million. To date, 26 individuals have been convicted of various offenses related to the schemes.

The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.

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