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Fresno Man Pleads Guilty to Unemployment Scam, Mail Theft



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It might’ve looked like easy money to career criminal Garrett Scott Wheelen, 30, of Fresno.

Run a pandemic unemployment scam. Steal letters from a U.S. mail truck.

But, as the saying goes, crime doesn’t pay.

On Thursday, Wheelen pleaded guilty to mail fraud and possession of stolen mail, acting U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert said in a news release.

Stole Credit Cards, Checks, Personal Identities

According to court documents, between August and November 2020, Wheelen pulled off an unemployment fraud. The state Economic Development Department approved some of the claims and Bank of America mailed debit cards containing unemployment benefits to an address under Wheelen’s control.

Wheelen also stole U.S. mail and harvested bank cards, financial information, checks, and personal identity information.

One example: On Sept. 4, 2020, he was in possession of California State driver’s licenses, credit cards, and checks that he had stolen from U.S. mail. At least some of this mail came into his possession when he broke into a mail truck in Fresno on Aug. 11, 2020.

Maximum Sentence Is 25 Years

At this point, it’s unknown how long Wheelen, a repeat offender, will spend in a federal penitentiary. That will be up to a judge and federal sentencing guidelines.

However, he faces a maximum sentence of 25 years and a $500,000 fine.

In addition, Wheelen faces criminal charges in Fresno County Superior Court.

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service, California EDD’s Investigation Division, and the Reedley Police Department investigated the case. Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert J. Artuz is the prosecutor.


Bill McEwen is news director and columnist for GV Wire. He joined GV Wire in August 2017 after 37 years at The Fresno Bee. With The Bee, he served as Opinion Editor, City Hall reporter, Metro columnist, sports columnist and sports editor through the years. His work has been frequently honored by the California Newspapers Publishers Association, including authoring first-place editorials in 2015 and 2016. Bill and his wife, Karen, are proud parents of two adult sons, and they have two grandsons. You can contact Bill at 559-492-4031 or at Send an Email

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