In the latest revelation of potential criminal fraud involving California jobless benefits, an analysis found that more than $42 million in claims went to out-of-state prison and jail inmates, part of what officials now estimate could be $4 billion in scammed coronavirus relief funds, reports the Los Angeles Times. Many Florida inmates, including a man sentenced to 20 years for murder, are among the thousands of out-of-state prisoners who have allegedly received California pandemic unemployment benefits, says the state Employment Development Department. The analysis compared data on inmates nationwide against nearly 10 million people on the state pandemic unemployment rolls, and found that California approved more than 6,000 claims involving people who were probably incarcerated elsewhere when they were paid by California.
The disclosures come as state authorities are learning that potentially fraudulent claims of California aid could total about $4 billion, double previous estimates. More than 2,000 “high-risk” claims involve inmates of the Florida Department of Corrections or county jails in that state. Along with the convicted murderer, identified as Nakeva Thornton, 43, who allegedly received $10,800 in payments and was sentenced in 2012, the report highlights another Florida prison inmate serving time for burglary and failure to comply with sex offender rules who allegedly received $9,000 and is scheduled for release in 2024. California’s prisoner unemployment fraud now estimated at $400 million. The analysis also identified more than 1,660 California inmates as being at a high risk of having received benefits while incarcerated, including more than 700 people booked in Orange County’s jail. In one California claim, an inmate at Shasta County jail, charged with murder and incarcerated since 2014, received $167 weekly for 16 weeks beginning in March.