In what could be considered the biggest taxpayer fraud in California history, prosecutors are saying at least 35,000 unemployment claims have been filed on behalf of prison inmates during the summer of 2020.
Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert said the state paid out more than $140 million in benefits to prisoners across California's 35 prisons.
At least 158 of the bogus claims have been filed for 133 death row inmates including high profile convicted murderers Scott Peterson and Cary Stayner.
Riverside D.A. Mike Hestin explained how the scheme typically works:
Payments go to an address on the outside, then the person who receives the cash card puts some of the funds into the inmate's prison account where it can be used to buy goods and services.
Hestin said "One guy on a telephone call bragged he just bought a $400 watch for his mother thanks to the state."
Allegations of fraud started to surface when district attorneys in Los Angeles, Lassen and San Mateo counties uncovered curious claims coming from local jails, partially from monitored phone calls of inmates while investigating unrelated crimes.