Unemployment claim made in Scott Peterson's name

California Prosecutors Claim Murderers—Including Scott Peterson—Received Unemployment Benefits

In some cases, prosecutors were tipped off by listening in on recorded phone calls from prison as inmates bragged about how they were gaming the system to collect unemployment benefits.

The district attorneys were witnessed claiming, that it is "the most significant fraud on taxpayer funds in California history".

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.

The scandal comes as Covid has wreaked havoc on the state's overcrowded prison system, infecting more than 19,000 incarcerated people and killing 85.

Prosecutors across California are claiming there is a widespread pattern of unemployment benefit fraud involving people locked away behind bars.

They added that California's Employment Development Department added to the problem by not checking unemployment claims against a list of prison inmates, as many other states do.

EDD is working with the US Department of Labor and Office of Inspector General on cross-matching with inmates to identify suspect claims, EDD spokeswoman Loree Levy told CNN. They said there are 58 county jails with additional hundreds of millions of dollars in fraudulent unemployment claims.

Signs of the fraud have apparently popped up in many places, and San Mateo County DA Steve Wagstaffe already charged 21 inmates with defrauding the EDD back in September.

"While we have made improvements, we need to do more", Newsom said.

"In my almost four decades as a prosecutor in this state, I have never seen fraud of this magnitude", Kern County District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer said.

A rash of fraudulent pandemic unemployment claims filed under the names of jail and prison inmates, including more than 100 on death row, has bilked California out of hundreds of millions of dollars, a law enforcement task force said Tuesday.

"And with this fraud means that victims that have been victimized by these inmates aren't getting the restitution that they so deservedly have been owed", said Schubert.

"They are not making any accusations against Scott at all at this point", attorney Pat Harris said.

The investigator ran names through the Employment Development Department and found matches. Investigations are ongoing, but there may be as much as $500 million involved in the fraud in San Mateo alone, Wagstaffe said.

However, inmates have been able to circumvent that process by requesting help from people outside of the prison system. District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer said she anticipates "many, many more".

"This is federal money at the end of the day", Scott said.

The fraud scheme is "rampant" in county jails, too, prosecutors said. He estimated "thousands at federal penitentiaries have likewise undertaken this fraud". Other times, they would use fake names, as well as fake Social Security numbers.

Numerous claims used prisoners' real names, addresses and social security numbers to obtain debit cards sent to homes across California and other U.S. states under pandemic unemployment relief schemes.

Newsom responded with a statement later Tuesday calling the fraud "absolutely unacceptable" and pledging to "direct as many resources as needed to investigate and resolve this issue speedily".

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