Prosecutors across California are claiming there is a widespread pattern of unemployment benefit fraud involving people locked away behind bars. Alleged recipients included convicted murderers like Scott Peterson. The investigation into these allegations stems from in-state jails and prison, where sources cited by The Los Angeles Times said that investigators caught wind of it when recording inmates’ phone conversations out in Lassen and San Mateo Counties.
Kern County District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer said that her office discovered $16 million of alleged fraud in her county, and that she had never seen anything of this scope in her 36 years as a prosecutor. Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert said they have discovered that more than $140 million were paid to inmates across the state’s 38 prisons. Another $400,000 went to death row inmates including Isauro Aguirre (who murdered an 8-year-old boy), and Cary Stayner (who killed two women and two girls). The total amount lost is about $1 billion, according to the prosecutors.
Peterson was sentenced to death after being convicted for murdering his wife Laci Peterson and their unborn son Conner, but that death sentence was recently overturned. The state wants to retry his penalty phase. The California Supreme Court has ordered a lower court to re-examine the underlying conviction after it was determined a juror inappropriately withheld that she had filed for a restraining order against her then-boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend.
MORE: Tens of thousands of Calif. jail & prison inmates are accused of scamming EDD, claiming upwards of $1 billion in COVID-19 related unemployment, according to Sacamento County DA @kcranews
— Vicki Gonzalez (@VickiGonzaleztv) November 24, 2020
Zimmer, Schubert, seven other District Attorneys, and U.S. Attorney Scott McGregor of the Eastern District of California called on Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) to step in. The governor started a task force to address the controversy, which has landed a black eye on the Employment Development Department.
“I have constituents who STILL haven’t received the unemployment benefits they’re entitled to and now we learn death row inmates are getting benefits?” said California state Senator Melissa Melendez (R-District 28). “Everyone top level administrator in EDD should be fired immediately.”
[Mugshot via California Department of Corrections]
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