California taxpayers were defrauded out of at least $140 million in unemployment benefits by murderers, rapists and child molesters who are currently behind bars in the state, according to a report.
Using names such as “John Doe,” “John Adams” and “Poopy Britches,” inmates cashed in on the pandemic.
Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert told KSWB that between March and August, 35,000 California inmates filed unemployment claims with the Employment Development Department.
They received more than $140 million from the state agency.
“The fraud is honestly staggering,” Schubert told the outlet.
“Quite frankly, the inmates are mocking us,” she added, saying the cost to California’s taxpayers could be in the hundreds of millions of dollars and “may well amount to upwards of a billion dollars having already been paid in their names.”
According to Schubert, at least 158 fraudulent unemployment claims had been filed for 133 death row inmates, some of them well known.
For example, she said, a claim was made for Scott Peterson, who was convicted in 2005 for the murder of his pregnant wife, Laci, in 2002.
Others on the list include Cary Stayner, who in 1999 killed four people in Yosemite National Park, and Susan Eubanks, who was convicted of the 1997 murders of her four sons in San Diego.
Notorious killer Isauro Aguirre, who is on death row for confining, beating and ultimately murdering an 8-year-old boy in 2013, was approved for unemployment benefits and received a debit card, the report said.
These high-profile prisoners, though, are just the tip of the iceberg with regard to the fraud, according to Schubert.
She predicted it will go down as “one of the biggest frauds of taxpayer dollars in California history.”
Steve Wagstaffe, the San Mateo County district attorney, said authorities there were tipped off to the scam through a phone call from an inmate this summer.
Wagstaffe said the fraud in many cases was successful, as inmates had help from people outside of their facilities.
Inmates apparently did not do much to hide the scam, Vern Pierson, the El Dorado County district attorney, told KSWB.
“It’s open and notorious in the correctional facilities, being discussed about how everybody is getting paid,” Pierson said.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a statement Tuesday about the fraud.
“Unemployment fraud across local jails and state and federal prisons is absolutely unacceptable,” the Democrat said, according to KSWB.
Newsom said that when he was made aware of the fraud, he “directed the Employment Development Department to review its practices and to take immediate actions to prevent fraud and to hold people accountable.”
“We will continue to fully partner with law enforcement and direct as many resources as needed to investigate and resolve this issue speedily. While we have made improvements, we need to do more. Everything the state does will be done in partnership with the local District Attorneys and I thank them for their commitment to resolving this issue as quickly as possible,” Newsom said.
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