California prison inmates pulled off a massive amount of benefits fraud this year, potentially bringing in over $1 billion in illegitimate unemployment benefits under programs passed to ease the economic impact of COVID-19. According to proecutors in California, the scheme involved tens of thousands of inmates across the California penal system.
“The fraud is honestly staggering,” Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert told NBC News.
The benefits were spread out between direct payments to inmates and checks sent to their relatives. A significant portion of the state's death row inmates (133 out of 700) had their names used in the plot. The alleged beneficiaries include Scott Peterson, a true crime bugbear who became infamous after killing his wife and unborn child in 2002.
Peterson's lawyer claimed his name was used without his knowledge while speaking to CNN.
"They are not making any accusations against Scott at all at this point," attorney Pat Harris said. "There is no accusation that he did anything wrong. I am 100 percent confident they will find that Scott was in no way involved in anything fraudulent."
The fraud also included many instances of fake names and false social security numbers, according to authorities. John Doe, John Adams, and "Poopy Britches" were all found to be fraudulent beneficiaries of the program established by inmates. The majority of the alleged fraud took advantage of the supplemental $600 per week unemployment benefits passed under the CARES Act.
"That money was stolen from the coffers of the California government," Schubert told CNN.