KODIAK - A former school bus driver was sentenced to federal prison and ordered to pay restitution for stealing the identities of Kodiak residents to receive unemployment checks.
Earlier this month, Edgar David Leon, 38, pleaded guilty in federal court to 21 felony counts of mail fraud. He was sentenced to eight months in prison and ordered to pay more than $11,000.
An investigation began in December 2001 when a teller at First National Bank noticed Leon depositing multiple unemployment checks into his account.
Jim Schwanke, lead investigator for the Unemployment Insurance Investigations Fraud Unit, confirmed the signatures were forged through a comparison of signatures on drivers' license records.
All of the identity theft victims were previous recipients of unemployment insurance, worked in the seafood business and had limited English skills.
Schwanke said that Leon, who is bilingual, befriended these individuals and even helped them apply for unemployment in the offseason. When they returned to their native countries for the holidays in 2001, he used the information he had gathered to apply for benefits, cashing checks for more than $9,000.