Tens of thousands of prison and prison inmates, including convicted serial killers and notorious inmates like Scott Peterson, have carried out what prosecutors Tuesday described as possibly the largest fraud program in California history.
The alleged crimes that focus on the essentials pandemic unemployment benefit, could be a billion dollars, said Anne Marie Schubert, District Attorney for Sacramento.
“The fraud is frankly mind-boggling,” she said.
Between March and August, Schubert said, inmates housed in every California jail and in prisons across the state filed 35,000 claims totaling $ 140 million.
Sometimes these benefits were paid directly to inmates in the facilities, she said. In other cases, the money was sent to relatives and friends outside the prisons and prisons.
District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer said investigators were made aware of the program in September after numerous money orders for inmates came in.
Sometimes benefits included fake social security numbers and names like John Doe, John Adams, or, in one case, “Poopy Britches,” Schubert said.
“To be honest, the inmates are mocking us,” she said.
In other cases, claims were made with real names. Among them were 133 of the state’s 700 death row inmates, including convicted criminals like Cary Stayner, who murdered four people near Yosemite National Park in 1999. Susan Eubanks, who murdered her four sons in 1996; and Peterson, who killed his wife and unborn son in 2002.
Earlier this year, Peterson’s death sentence was overturned under the state Supreme Court decided that there had been “significant errors” during the selection of the jury in its process. Prosecutors have said In this case, you will apply for the death penalty again.
When asked how much fraud was linked to Peterson’s allegation, another prosecutor in Schubert’s office said, “We know the number,” but declined to provide it, citing an ongoing investigation.
A Peterson attorney, Pat Harris, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday, but told the Associated Press that investigators will find “that he has nothing to do with a system for obtaining fraudulent benefits”.
Schubert said claims totaling $ 420,000 had been paid to death row inmates.
She said the fraud could be carried out because, unlike 35 other states, California lacks a system that matches prison and prison records with unemployment claims.
In a statement, Loree Levy, deputy director of the state’s Department of Economic Development, said that “as part of increased prevention efforts at this unprecedented time of pandemic unemployment fraud across the country, she will be promoting cross-match integration. ”
The department declined to comment on certain claims, citing confidentiality requirements.
in the a statement to NBC Los AngelesCalifornia Governor Gavin Newsom described the fraud as “totally unacceptable” and said he had directed emergency services officials to set up a task force to address the problem.