A Pasadena man faces federal charges for using stolen identities to obtain hundreds of thousands of dollars in unemployment benefits under the federal CARES Act meant for COVID-19 relief, as well using the ill-gotten funds to buy a Maserati luxury SUV, prosecutors announced Friday.
Robert Sloan Mateer, 30, is also accused of dealing methamphetamine while carrying a loaded, unregistered, unserialized “ghost gun”, according to U.S. Department of Justice spokesman Ciaran McEvoy.
A federal grand jury indicted him last week on charges of possession of at least 15 or more unauthorized access devices with intent to defraud; aggravated identity theft; possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute; possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime; and being a convicted felon in possession of ammunition, McEvoy said in a written statement.
An arraignment hearing that had been scheduled for Friday was postponed to Thursday, according to McEvoy.
The case stems from a traffic stop in Pasadena on Oct. 1, prosecutors said.
He was driving the Maserati SUV shortly before 9 a.m. when a Pasadena Police Department motor officer pulled him over for making an illegal U-turn at Colorado Boulevard and Fair Oaks Avenue, Pasadena police Lt. Anthony Russo said at the time.
While the driver, later identified as Mateer, was looking through his glove box for the vehicle’s registration, the officer noticed the grip of a pistol inside, according to Russo.
Mateer and a passenger were detained while police searched the car.
Officers ultimately seized 17 unemployment benefits debit cards, along with several other credit and debit cards and pieces of suspected stolen mail, $197,711 in cash, over three ounces of methamphetamine and a loaded 9mm handgun with no serial number, according to police and federal officials.
Both suspects were arrested on suspicion of drug- and ID theft-related crimes, and Mateer was additionally accused of illegal gun possession, police said. The passenger was described in federal court documents as Mateer’s girlfriend.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service took interest in the case and Mateer was turned over to federal custody on Nov. 5 and subsequently ordered to be held in custody pending trial, according to federal officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
“Evidence gathered during the investigation determined that at least 14 of the 17 debit cards were loaded with at least $133,000 in unemployment insurance benefits, later determined to have been issued under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed by Congress in March, and had been issued in the names of third-parties, including identity theft victims,” McEvoy said.
Mateer admitted to obtaining the benefit cards by using “thousands” of stolen identity profiles, “that each debit card was loaded with approximately $14,500, and that he used the fraudulently obtained unemployment benefits to purchase the Maserati automobile,” he said. “ Mateer also admitted that he withdrew the approximately $197,711 in cash found in his Maserati from ATMs across the Los Angeles area.”
Prosecutors alleged Mateer also used the cards to withdraw more than $13,800 between Sept. 29 and Sept. 25.
At the time of his arrest, Mateer was already awaiting trial on five counts of identity theft, two counts of credit card theft, burglary, grand theft and tampering with a vehicle, according to L.A. County Superior Court records.
If convicted as charged, Mateer would face a minimum sentence of 17 years in federal prison and a maximum potential sentence of life behind bars.