SACRAMENTO, Calif — Two months after district attorneys from across California announced widespread unemployment fraud in prisons, the scope of the investigation continues to grow.
In November, the district attorneys said local and state inmates were filing and receiving unemployment benefits that they were not entitled to. Since then, they are continuing to have meetings with EDD after they discovered widespread fraud activity involving inmates.
"In the beginning of the pandemic through last summer was so lacking in basic fraud detection and fraud prevention tools that it was wide open,” Vern Pierson, El Dorado County District Attorney said. “Tremendous amount of money went to state prisons and county jails and in fact beyond that."
District attorneys said a cross-matching system they brought to the attention of EDD five years ago could've helped stopped it and now it's been implemented.
"Essentially what it does it uses an algorithm to search public record databases for every application to make up a formula that projects likelihood that the claim was fraudulent," Pierson said.
Pierson says that cross-matching system and another identity verification tool, ID.me, has helped in the past few months.
Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert is part of the EDD Fraud Task Force. She says they have weekly meetings with EDD and the governor’s Office of Emergency Services to help in these fraud cases.
Through further investigation, they found that this is also happening outside of the state.
"From a not so great view, we discovered there are out of state inmates that have made claims to California EDD. So, it's not just in-state," Schubert said.
Initially, they estimated hundreds of millions of dollars were paid out to fraudulent claims. At this point they said it's far exceeded that amount with all the cases they are still investigating and discovering.