California authorities announced that they had detected a fraud that cost the state up to a billion dollars, by using the names of prisoners in applications for unemployment benefits.
A legal task force from four California counties said the operation may be the largest fraudulent taxpayer money fraud in US state history.
California does not have a system that compares data from prisons with information in jobless claims.
“We are talking about hundreds of millions of dollars at least statewide,” said Vern Pearson, a member of the team, while Maria Schubert, the Sacramento District Attorney, did not rule out estimating the losses caused by fraud at one billion dollars.
The team explained that it has so far identified 20,000 unemployment claims that have been paid on behalf of prisoners, amounting to $ 140 million, and indicated that more funds are expected to be revealed. He said more than $ 420,000 had been paid to the names of 133 death row inmates.
It is not clear whether this scheme was orchestrated by the prisoners themselves or through the theft of their identities.
Since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic, the United States has witnessed an unprecedented rise in jobless claims, with more than 30 million people requesting help.