SAN DIEGO — Nine state prison inmates have been charged in San Diego County with scamming California’s unemployment benefits system, which is battling fraud in its massive Coronavirus relief program.
The inmates received more than $160,000 between June and September 2020, District Attorney Summer Stephan said in a statement Thursday.
The nine allegedly lied about their eligibility and addresses on state Employment Development Department applications while assigned to a program in San Diego that allows some inmates to finish their sentences in halfway house settings.
“These inmates were not only breaking the rules and gaming the system, they added insult to injury for families relying on legitimate unemployment benefits to make ends meet during the ongoing pandemic,” Stephan said.
The inmates were receiving luxury items from Amazon and food deliveries from restaurants and had mobile banking apps on their cellphones that gave access to large amounts of money, the DA’s office said.
Stephan said fraud committed by inmates in San Diego County is believed to total as much as $5 million.
California has struggled to process millions of unemployment benefits due to businesses being ordered to close during the pandemic. The state has acknowledged the department was bilked out of hundreds of millions of dollars that went to fraudsters, including inmates.