BUTTE COUNTY, Calif. - 15 Butte County Jail inmates and people who helped them receive COVID-19 unemployment insurance are facing fraud charges, Butte County District Attorney said.
District Attorney Mike Ramsey said some of the inmates received over $30,000 in unemployment benefits while in jail.
Investigators have found over $396,000 in unemployment benefits in total, Ramsey said.
The district attorney’s office became aware of the potential fraud after the state expanded unemployment benefits due to the pandemic.
The office created a team of investigators and prosecutors to begin looking into the potential fraud.
Evidence discovered inmates were working together to receive the benefits.
Ramsey said he expects the 15 people charged Thursday to be the first wave of cases as more are expected to come in the months ahead.
Currently, investigators are looking at 20 additional cases and have discovered a total of $396,513.72 in fraudulent money.
Ramsey said this is a statewide issue “due to the ease of the online application process and the lack of controls or checks and balances at the state EDD.”
A backlog of information requests through the EDD was created due to a high number of suspected fraud cases within the state.
Other states created a system to cross-reference unemployment applications with people who are in prisons and local jails as California did not do this, Ramsey said.
The majority of inmates charged in Butte County stole identification from someone they knew but there were cases of identity theft from strangers, Ramsey said.
Anyone who may be a victim of EDD fraud is asked to contact the EDD directly at 1 (800) 229-6297 or www.edd.ca.gov.
Click here to view the District Attorney's unemployment fraud announcement.