California Unemployment Aid Scheme Approved $140 Million To Prisoners

Claims were filed in the names of well-known murderers like Scott Peterson and Cary Stayner.

11/25/2020 7:14:00 PM

Claims were filed in the names of well-known murderers like Scott Peterson and Cary Stayner.

Claims were filed in the names of well-known murderers like Scott Peterson and Cary Stayner. At least 158 claims were filed for 133 death-row inmates.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California’s system for paying unemployment benefits is so dysfunctional that the state approved more than $140 million for at least 20,000 prisoners, local and federal prosecutors said Tuesday, detailing a scheme that resulted in claims filed in the names of well-known convicted murderers like Scott Peterson and Cary Stayner.

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From March to August, more than 35,000 inmates were named in claims filed with the California Employment Development Department, with more than 20,000 being paid, according to Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert. At least 158 claims were filed for 133 death-row inmates, resulting in more than $420,000 in benefits paid

“It involves rapists and child molesters, human traffickers and other violent criminals in our state prisons,” Schubert said.ASSOCIATED PRESSThe main entryway leading into San Quentin State Prison in San Quentin, California, is seen. More than 35,000 California inmates were named in unemployment benefit claims filed from March to August. More than 20,000 of them were paid.

The list includes Peterson, who was sentenced to death after being convicted of killing his pregnant wife following a trial that riveted the nation. The California Supreme Court recently overturned Peterson’s death sentence and has ordered a lower court to review his murder conviction.

Schubert confirmed there was a claim made in the name of Scott Peterson, but declined to provide further details.Peterson’s attorney, Pat Harris, said while Peterson’s name surfaced during the investigation, there is no evidence Peterson received unemployment aid from the state.

“This investigation, when it’s completed, will show that he had not a thing to do with any kind of scheme to get fraudulent benefits,” Harris said.ASSOCIATED PRESSA California prosecutor said someone filed an unemployment claim in the name of convicted murderer Scott Peterson.

Schubert listed a number of inmates there who had claims filed in their names, including Stayner, convicted of killing four people in or near Yosemite National Park in 1999; Susan Eubanks, a San Diego woman convicted of shooting her four sons to death in 1997; Isauro Aguirre, who was sentenced to death for the 2013 murder of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez in Los Angeles; and Wesley Shermantine, part of the duo dubbed the “Speed Freak Killers” for their meth-induced killing rampage in the 1980s and ’90s.

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Prosecutors said they learned of the scheme from listening in on recorded prison phone calls, where inmates would talk about how easy it was for everyone to get paid. They said the scheme always involved someone on the outside — usually friends or family members of the inmates, who would then receive the benefits.

In Kern County, home to five state prisons, one address was used to receive benefits for 16 inmates.“In my nearly four decades as a prosecutor in this state, I have never seen fraud of this magnitude,” Kern County District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer said.

Reuters Photographer / ReutersA guard at San Quentin prison is seen checking doors of cells housing death row inmates. At least 158 claims were filed in California for 133 death-row inmates.In some cases, inmates used their real names. In others, they used fake names and even fake Social Security numbers. In one instance, an inmate used the name: “poopy britches,” Schubert said.

“Quite frankly, the inmates are mocking us,” Schubert said.So far, 22 people have been charged in San Mateo County, including six people who were not in prison. Prosecutors said dozens of other investigations across the state are continuing.Prosecutors blamed the Employment Development Department, which has been overwhelmed by more than 16.4 million benefit claims since the pandemic began in March, resulting in a backlog that at one time totaled more than 1.6 million people.

But prosecutors said in its haste to approve benefits, the department did not check unemployment claims against a list of prisoners, as many other states do. San Mateo District Attorney Stephen Wagstaffe said that when he notified the department about inmates fraudulently receiving benefits, they told him they could not cut off the payments until they were formally charged with a crime.

The problem was so bad that on Monday, nine county district attorneys sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom asking for him to intervene.“We face a manifest problem that requires action, not talk,” said McGregor Scott, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California.

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Employment Development Department spokeswoman Loree Levy said the agency has been working with the Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General on cross-checking claims with inmates, saying they are “pursuing how to integrate such cross-matches moving forward as part of enhanced prevention efforts during this unprecedented time of pandemic-related unemployment fraud across the country.”

In an email to the AP, Newsom called the fraud “absolutely unacceptable.” He said he first learned of the fraud earlier this year, which prompted him to order the department to “review its practices and take immediate actions to prevent fraud and to hold people accountable.”

Newsom said he has ordered the Office of Emergency Services to set up a task force to assist prosecutors with their investigation. Read more: HuffPost »

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Now we can stop incarcerating people for non violent crime. Since there are now MILLIONS of people that lied to get benefits in 2020. Maybe focus more on prevention and less on punishment. Obviously doesn’t work and costs taxpayers BILLIONS. Imagine throwing millions in jail. 🙄 The State government run departments are horrible. The DMV has no way to verify your address, you could put anything and it would be acceptable for your driver's license

Why is it a scheme? They deserve the money too. Good job California. Sickening Shows how inefficient government can sometimes be. In NJ you still have people that filed for unemployment in the spring not receiving benefits. People that are entitled to those benefits because they paid into the system. There has got to be more than one person in this country with the name ‘Scott Peterson ‘ Probably as common a name as a Korean ‘Park Chol’ or a Chinese ‘Zhang Wei’.

SH*t like this went down in WA state also. People were denied while some clowns in Nigeria made off with millions. This is the kind of bs that makes people turn into Trumpers. Unacceptable that this sh*t goes down. Where R the standard practices? Why do you hate felons? good luck