Written by Nicholas Vetrisek
A scam recently discovered in California prisons has cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in jobless benefits that were given to prisoners, including many on death row.
Nine district attorneys across the state and a federal prosecutor are calling on Governor Newsom to get involved and stop the defrauding of the Employment Development Department pandemic relief, which is estimated to have tens of thousands of false claims. In a letter written by the attorneys, they called the situation “the most significant fraud on taxpayer funds in California history.”
“It is a manifest problem that cannot be ignored, and the governor needs to take steps to address it,” said McGregor Scott, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of California.
The attorneys claim that the fraud is preventable and all the state has to do is check inmate records against unemployment claims. Even though this security measure is already being practiced in several other states, the attorneys say that the EDD has been ineffective, claiming its response to the findings was “slow to nonexistent.” El Dorado County Dist. Atty. Vern Pierson called the EDD “a dysfunctional mess.”
Governor Newsom has called the fraud “absolutely unacceptable” and announced a task force to combat fraud in California and aid district attorneys.
“Earlier this year, I launched a strike team to expedite unemployment payments and to minimize abuse of the system,” Newsom said. “While we have made improvements, we need to do more.”
The blame for this seems to lie solely with the EDD, especially given the consensus among lawmakers that this is an easy problem to solve that should have never happened in the first place.
“The ineptitude at EDD knows no bounds,” said Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach), chairwoman of the Assembly Accountability and Administrative Review Committee. “This latest report of widespread EDD fraud by inmates is particularly outrageous, because this is a very simple problem to solve.”
Photo via California Employment Development Department