‘Tsunami’ of prison unemployment fraud could be fueling California street crime, prosecutors say

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)

As plots are revealed inside California prisons and jails to scam pandemic unemployment benefits, district attorneys across much of California are calling on state leaders to help them stop, investigate and prosecute the fraud — aid they say has been slow to materialize as abuses continue.

“It’s a tsunami,” said Sacramento County Dist. Atty. Anne Marie Schubert, one prosecutor who fears the money stolen could be contributing to crime on the street. “Ultimately the bottom line is we need help.”

Multiple district attorneys interviewed by The Times said they are frustrated that state officials, including state Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra, have not taken leadership in what some have described as the biggest taxpayer fraud in California history. Especially troublesome to some is that state agencies continue to grapple with how to share information with investigators — such as Social Security numbers that are needed to pinpoint inmates applying for benefits, a system used in 35 other states to prevent such abuse.

Officials with the administration of Gov. Gavin Newsom said a permanent legal solution to allow the sharing of data is being worked on. It could involve a change of state law or regulations at the prison agency.

Read the full story on LATimes.com.

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