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California man held for $750,000 in EBT texting scam

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Posted at 10:02 PM, May 31, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-01 01:02:13-04

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (ABC 10) — A California man is behind bars for allegedly running a $750,000 public assistance scam across the state.

State Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced the arrest Friday, saying that 655 people fell victim to Jawuan Antonio Gibson's suspected Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) fraud.

The charge against Gibson alleges that he solicited information, such as Social Security Numbers and birthdates, between Nov. 1, 2018, and May 2, 2019. After getting the information, investigators said Gibson used the victims' personal information to create duplicate EBT debit cards and make thousands of dollars in withdrawals from ATMs.

The complaint filed in Sacramento County Superior Court states that Gibson pocketed $750,000.

EBT is the system used by California residents to redeem monetary public assistance benefits from programs like CalFresh, CalWORKS and SNAP. California EBT cards can be used at thousands of businesses and ATMs throughout the state.

When arrested and booked in the Los Angeles County jail on May 2, authorities found Gibson with $20,000 in cash. On May 15 agents with the California Department of Justice searched his hotel and recovered $950,000 in cash, along with two cash counting machines, computers, SIM cards, prepaid phone cards, numerous ATM cards and ATM card readers and encoders.

“We have zero tolerance for individuals who steal from innocent victims through fraudulent means,” Attorney Becerra said. “This type of reckless behavior harms taxpayers and vulnerable Californians who rely on public assistance."

Gibson faces two counts of grand theft and one count of grand theft of access cards issued to four or more people. His bail is set at $1 million, with a second court appearance on June 18.

Gibson's arrest and charges are the results of an investigation by the California Department of Justice’s White Collar Investigation Team and the Sacramento County Department of Human Assistance.

This video was written by ABC10.