California’s unemployment office approved applications for benefits that sent $140 million to 20,000 convicted prisoners, including claims on behalf of more than 100 death row murderers. The Employment Development Department, which has faced a massive backlog of applications due to a loss of jobs caused by the coronavirus pandemic, failed to check applicants’ names against prison databases between March and August of this year, according to local and federal California prosecutors. The fraud was blatant but successful nonetheless. Prisoners applied under both real and fake names, and one even used the moniker “poopy britches.” A single address was listed in the applications of 16 different inmates. Kern County District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer said, “In my nearly four decades as a prosecutor in this state, I have never seen fraud of this magnitude.” Thus far, 22 people have been charged, all in San Mateo County, 16 of whom are in prison. Prisoners often collaborated with an outside accomplice who would receive the benefits on their behalf.
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