Frustrated California district attorneys are sounding the alarm about Governor Gavin Newsom’s apathetic response to the California prisoner unemployment scam that’s bilked state taxpayers out more than $1 billion dollars of COVID-19 relief funds. Nine DAs sent the governor a second letter which reveals the governor’s inaction on what could be the “biggest fraud of taxpayer dollars in California history.”
The district attorneys from nine of California’s largest counties recently called out the governor in an attempt to get him to respond to the huge scam that saw some of the worst criminals at San Quentin, such as murderer Scott Peterson, get $20,000 each in COVID related unemployment benefits. There’s so much fraud and so few checks and balances in the Employment Development Department program that PJ Media recently reported about a one-year-old baby receiving unemployment benefits.
Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert and others held a news conference days ago to apply more pressure on the governor to address the unprecedented prison scam.
It includes rapists and child molesters, human traffickers and other violent criminals in our state prisons. It is perhaps and will be the biggest fraud of taxpayer dollars in California history. We need to turn off the spigot. Right now there is no cross-matching between the incarceration data and EDD [the Employmetn Developent Department] on a routine basis like it’s done in 35 other states.
Newsom’s lack of action on the issue and the DAs calling it out are sending secondary shockwaves.
In addition to Sacramento’s district attorney, the DAs from Ventura, San Diego, Fresno, El Dorado, Monterey, Lassen, Marin, and Riverside Counties signed a second letter outlining the “staggering” extent of the rip-off and strongly requested the governor get with the program to go after the criminals.
The letter claims that no one in Newsom’s administration tipped off the DAs to the huge scam. They had to rely on information from federal subpoenas from a federal task force looking into it.
It is unfortunate that law enforcement and prosecutors were not notified by any state agency of this pervasive fraud and had to rely on federal subpoenas to get the information. It was not until November 12, 2020, that the CDCR data with EDD claims was provided to the statewide task force. This data was provided in response to a federal Department of Labor subpoena served on CDCR in September. This information came to us from the federal government and not from the State of California, which had been previously provided with the data.
Within a matter of days, the statewide task force reviewed the data and found the staggering scope of the fraud. Earlier this week, we learned from media reports that the California Department of Labor set the inmate fraud at $400 million. We also received unverified information that EDD has distributed at least $1 billion dollars to out-of-state claimants. We are deeply concerned that the fraud will continue to grow exponentially.
The DAs want Newsom’s EDD director to join their task force and begin cross-referencing inmates’ names with the names of the people making claims. Newsom ordered the head of the EDD to meet with the district attorneys but the DAs were less than impressed.
[W]e believe, and the emerging data supports, that this is an urgent matter with an unprecedented scale of fraud that is bilking the State of California and its people of desperately needed financial resources. This urgent matter requires that we not have an agency start from the beginning, but rather join forces with our existing statewide District Attorneys EDD Fraud Task Force along with a federal task force that has been in place for several months to immediately stem this massive fraud scheme and bring accountability and integrity to Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program.
They want the governor to fund the task force and to call a session of the legislature to change the law or to make a new law to stop the fraud.
ABC 7 News Bay Area reported that from March to August there were 35,000 claims filed by state prison inmates and includes 133 inmates on death row. They were each paid $20,000. Checks were sent directly to the prisons and jails in some cases.
The New York Times reports that the list of recipients is shocking.
Among the named beneficiaries: Cary Stayner, a serial killer who murdered four women near Yosemite National Park in 1999; Wayne Ford, another serial killer, who confessed to at least four murders in 1997 and 1998 in Northern California; Scott Peterson, convicted in 2004 of the murder of his pregnant wife, Laci; and Isauro Aguirre, who, with his girlfriend, tortured and murdered her 8-year-old son, Gabriel Fernandez, in 2013 in Palmdale, Calif.
The scam was uncovered by San Mateo jail guards in August. In September Beverly Hills cops uncovered a $2.5 million scam with state debit cards. In October, federal authorities arrested rapper Nuke Bizzle who rapped about ripping off the system for $1.2 million. He called the song, “EDD.”
Earlier in the year, the governor set up a “strike force” to speed through unemployment claims, which supposedly included fraud safeguards. Roughly $1 billion has reportedly gone out the door, and the money has been sent to recipients all over the world. We can safely assume the fraud safeguards aren’t working.
Sacramento DA Schubert says it’s “a behemoth. This is massive. There is money going out of this state; there is money going out of this country.”
People whose identities have been stolen by fraudsters are also getting ripped off from benefits legitimately awarded to them. Authorities say the identities are put out on the dark web and used to apply for benefits. The system is so overwhelmed that the fraud hotline goes to an automated system, according to a woman whose identity was stolen to get EDD funds.
So, there’s no cross-referencing for the EDD program. That makes you wonder what’s going on in the voting system, too.