SHERMAN OAKS- On Friday, November 20, The District Attorneys Office for Riverside County announced that they have charged 14 defendants for their roles in a workers compensation fraud scheme that totaled $22 million in losses.

The 14 defendants are being charged in 3 separate cases with a variety of counts including insurance fraud, conspiracy, receiving kickbacks, and capping.

In January of 2019, the Riverside County District Attorneys Office, assisted by the California Bureau for Private Post-Secondary Education and the California Department of Insurance, began investigating suspected fraud at Sutech School in Los Angeles and Ryon College in Riverside.

Oswaldo Forero, 65, of Irvine, and Melbe Zepeda, 39, of Bellflower operated the two “sham” schools that were funded by workers’ compensation vouchers. The vouchers valued up to $10,000 were meant for injured workers to assist them in learning skills to accommodate their disabilities or to be re-trained in order to re-enter the workforce.

Zepeda and Forero allegedly employed “cappers” to illegally recruit students to the schools. They were paid to sign up as many students as possible, even if the student did not have a high school diploma or equivalent. The defendants prioritized ways to make money by over-charging for laptops and tools, faking admission tests, giving students cash for their vouchers, and collecting lucrative vouchers for students that rarely or never attended the school.

The other 12 defendants include Jose Luis Gamas, 45, of Pomona; Araceli Soto, 38, of Ontario; Edward Holguin, 36, of Norwalk; Sarvia Ofelia Lopez, 46, of San Diego; Juan Francsico Leal Gonzalez, 48, of Diamon Bar; Mauricio Giovanni Sanchez Hernandez, 53, of Sherman Oaks; Karla Mariela Arevalo, 31, of Fullerton; Estrella Juana Calix, 41, of Sylmar; Mariela Cardenas, 38, of Moreno Valley; Jose Nicasio Flores Lara, 58, of Southgate; and Sandy Lissette Flores, 37, of Lakewood.

The cases are currently being prosecuted by Deputy District Attorneys Erika Mulhere, Kristen Allison, and Matthew Murray of the District Attorneys Insurance Fraud Unit.