Killers, rapists, child molesters, and serial killers are among the thousands of prisoners in the fraud in which inmates — or people using their identities — applied for unemployment insurance and submitted the accompanying $ 600 weekly federal Covid-19 exemption. Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert, who spoke at the press conference on Tuesday.
Schubert described the scam as an all-encompassing effort that included all facilities of the California Department of Correction and Rehabilitation, including local, state, and federal institutions.
“This money was stolen from the California government treasury,” Schubert said, joined by district attorneys in Kern and El Dorado counties and an American attorney on Tuesday.
But much of the scam involved federal government money “in the form of supplementary unemployment insurance of $ 600 a week,” U.S. lawyer McGregor Scott told a news conference.
Schubert accused the state of not having a cross-fitting computer system that marks requests from inmates. While 35 other states have such programs, California does not.
The names of the death row inmates are linked to a scam
Some detainees, or those who use their ID cards, have filed more than one lawsuit and even used false names, such as John Doe. In some cases, they may be prisoners working in the system, but others may be victims of identity fraud, Schubert said.
For prisoners, engaging in such fraud would pose even more legal problems, and Peterson’s lawyer said he trusts his client to have nothing to do with it.
“Currently, Scott is not being charged at all,” attorney Pat Harris told CNN. “There’s no charge that he did anything wrong. I’m 100% sure they’ll find that Scott wasn’t involved in any fraud.”
San Mateo indicted 22 people, six of whom were outside the prison system.
So far, four convictions have been handed down in San Mateo
Steve Wagstaffe, San Mateo County District Attorney, said these cases have resulted in four convictions so far. Investigations are underway, but the fraud could be $ 500 million in San Mateo alone, Wagstaffe said.
When the fraud was warned, the California Department of Employment Development told investigators that it could not suspend payments until the charge was filed. Schubert called on Governor Gavin Newsom to intervene and immediately “turn off the tap.”
The EDD is working with the U.S. Department of Labor and the Office of the Attorney General to cross with detainees to identify suspicious allegations, EDD spokeswoman Loree Levy told CNN.
“We are also working on how to integrate such cross-contracts as part of increased prevention efforts in this unprecedented period of pandemic-related unemployment fraud across the country,” Levy said.
Although they will seek restitution, “the bulk of the money will never be repaid,” said Vern Pierson, the El Dorado County District Attorney.
In San Mateo, the scam came to light when an independent case detective was listening to prison recordings in July. The detainee started talking about a scam he had heard about unemployment benefits, Wagstaffe said.
The detective led names through the Employment Development Department and found results. Wagstaffe said all detainees were also in contact with outside people.
4000 applications from Kern County
Kern County, home to five state prisons, most in California, has filed a case so far. District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer said she expects “lots and lots more.”
About 4,000 applications were made on behalf of Kern County inmates, according to Zimmer, and 2,382 inmates have received care so far. The fraud there costs $ 16 million, he said.
“I’ve never seen such a scam,” Zimmer said Tuesday.
U.S. lawyer McGregor Scott said “a handful of people” were accused by a large jury in Sacramento and Fresno, and “lots and lots of open investigations are underway on the federal side.”
Those who were charged were not detainees, Scott said. He estimates that “thousands have committed this fraud in federal penitentiaries.”
Earlier this year, Newsom instructed the Employment Development Department to work with the state prison system and initiate a data reconciliation that marks the social security numbers of inmates.
“We will continue to cooperate fully with law enforcement and direct as many resources as necessary to quickly investigate and resolve the problem. Although we have improved, we need to do more,” Newsom said in a statement.
CNN Theresa Waldrop contributed to the report.