Millions in California coronavirus jobless benefits sent to out-of-state prisoners, analysis finds

California
California prisoners including death row inmates were sent unemployment benefits in recent months, according to state and federal prosecutors who have been investigating fraud in the pandemic relief system. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

California prisoners including death row inmates were sent unemployment benefits in recent months, according to state and federal prosecutors who have been investigating fraud in the pandemic relief system. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

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In the latest revelation of potential criminal fraud involving California jobless benefits, an analysis has found that more than $42 million in claims went to out-of-state prison and jail inmates, giving more clarity to what officials now estimate could be $4 billion in scammed coronavirus relief funds.

A large number of Florida inmates, including a man sentenced to 20 years for second-degree murder, are among the thousands of out-of-state prisoners who have allegedly received California pandemic unemployment benefits, according to a December analysis commissioned by the state Employment Development Department and reviewed by The Times.

The analysis compared data on incarcerated individuals nationwide against nearly 10 million people on the state pandemic unemployment rolls, and found that the EDD approved more than 6,000 claims, totaling more than $42 million, involving individuals who were probably incarcerated elsewhere when they were paid by California.

Altogether, the analysis found there were more 20,000 claims deemed at high or moderate risk of having been paid to an incarcerated person, either in California or another state. If all those claims were fraudulent, the $42 million estimate of payments to inmates would jump to $96 million.

Read the full story on LATimes.com.

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