LOS ANGELES – A former United States Postal Service mail carrier pleaded guilty today to federal criminal charges for stealing debit cards containing unemployment insurance benefits while on duty and giving them to an accomplice in exchange for cash payments and gifts.
Toya Toshell Hunter, 45, of South Los Angeles, pleaded guilty to one count of bank fraud.
According to her plea agreement, from January 2019 to May 2020, Hunter stole mail – including letters sent by the California Employment Development Department (EDD), which administers the state’s unemployment insurance program – and then gave the stolen EDD debit cards as well as other credit cards and financial instruments to her co-schemer. The co-schemer then activated and fraudulently used the cards to commit bank fraud, the plea agreement states.
For example, in March 2020, Hunter stole mail from her assigned route, including an EDD debit card belonging to a victim. Hunter also stole correspondence in the mail that contained the victim’s name and the last four digits of the victim’s Social Security number, which she later gave to her accomplice in exchange for cash and gifts, knowing the accomplice intended to activate and fraudulently use the victim’s debit card.
Hunter’s co-schemer used the debit card and the last four digits of the victim’s Social Security number to fraudulently activate the card and create a personal identification number (PIN) to access funds from the victim’s account, which was held at Bank of America, the plea agreement states. The co-schemer then used the victim’s stolen EDD card to withdraw cash from a Bank of America ATM located in Corona.
During the scheme Hunter aided and abetted her accomplice in making fraudulent and unauthorized cash withdrawals from 68 separate victims’ accounts and stole approximately $145,191 from Bank of America.
In July 2021, Hunter stole from the mail and fraudulently activated a stolen debit card containing COVID-19 pandemic unemployment relief money belonging to another victim. Hunter used the card to make fraudulent purchases and cash withdrawals, thereby stealing approximately $1,400 from Fiserv Bank.
United States District Judge John F. Walter scheduled a March 6, 2023 sentencing hearing, at which time Hunter will face a statutory maximum sentence of 30 years in federal prison.
Hunter’s co-defendant in this case, Michalea Latise Barksdale, a.k.a. “Miichii Bee,” 34, of Corona, has pleaded not guilty to the 17 felony charges against her, which include bank fraud, aggravated identity theft, and possession of unauthorized access devices and stolen mail. Barksdale has a March 28, 2023 trial date scheduled in this case.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The United States Postal Inspection Service; United States Postal Service – Office of Inspector General; and the United States Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration are investigating this matter.
Special Assistant United States Attorney Kyle W. Kahan of the General Crimes Section is prosecuting this case