As much as a billion dollars of COVID-19 unemployment benefits have ended up in the hands of California inmates in what NBC News is calling possibly “the largest fraud scheme in the history of California.”
What was supposed to be an economic lifeline to Americans trapped by COVID-19 has now become fodder for inmates to inflict further harm on the state of California in the midst of the global pandemic. Anne Marie Schubert, District Attorney for Sacramento County told outlets that between March and August, over 35,000 inmates applied for benefits for pandemic income relief, totaling something like $140 million in benefits.
That’s a fraction of the damage.
The inmate unemployment claims—a number of which originated on death row—are a blatant mockery of the government’s authority, Schubert said.
Cary Stayer, who murdered two women and two girls, received a government relief check, according to the Los Angeles Times. So did Isauro Aguirre, an inmate who tortured and killed an eight-year old boy. Scott Peterson, who killed his wife and son, also received federal relief in the form of a debit card, loaded with tax-payer funds.
“The fraud is honestly staggering,” Schubert said.
While the specific details of the claims remain confidential as per court proceedings, the situation is transparent enough. Nine district attorneys made the allegations public and called for Governor Gavin Newsom to put a stop to the fraudulent situation.
McGregor Scott, a U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California says it’s a problem the state cannot afford to overlook.
“It is a manifest problem that cannot be ignored, and the governor needs to take steps to address it,” McGregor said.