An ex-U.S. Postal Service mail carrier from Los Angeles County pleaded guilty Wednesday, Dec. 14, to stealing debit cards containing unemployment insurance benefits while on duty and giving them to an accomplice in exchange for cash and gifts.
Toya Hunter, 45, pleaded guilty in Los Angeles federal court to one count of bank fraud, which carries a sentence of up to 30 years behind bars. U.S. District Judge John F. Walter scheduled a March 6 sentencing hearing, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
According to her plea agreement, from January 2019 to May 2020, Hunter stole mail — including letters sent by the California Employment Development Department — and then gave the stolen EDD debit cards as well as other credit cards and financial instruments to her co-defendant.
Hunter’s co-defendant, Michalea Barksdale, also known as Miichii Bee, 34, has pleaded not guilty to 17 felony charges, including bank fraud, aggravated identity theft and possession of unauthorized access devices and stolen mail. Barksdale has a March 28 trial date scheduled.
Barksdale allegedly used the last four digits of victims’ Social Security numbers to activate the debit cards and create personal identification numbers to access the funds, which were held at Bank of America, Hunter’s plea agreement states. Barksdale then used the stolen EDD card to withdraw cash from a Bank of America ATM, federal prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said Hunter helped Barksdale make withdrawals from 68 victims’ accounts and stole about $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, stealing about $1,400 from Fiserv Bank, her plea agreement states.