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Suspect allegedly collected over $145,000 in fraudulent unemployment benefits
SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced the arrest of and charges against an individual who allegedly filed and collected more than $145,000 in fraudulent unemployment benefits from California’s Employment Development Department (EDD). The suspect is alleged to have fraudulently collected benefits between 2020 and 2021 in both her own name, as well as through the identities of convicted murderers Scott Peterson and Cary Stayner. Peterson and Stayner have been incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison since 2005 and 2002, respectively. The suspect has been charged with multiple counts of felony grand theft and forgery. The arrest is the result of a multiagency investigation, involving the California Department of Justice (DOJ), the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), and EDD.
“Don’t let the infamous names distract you from who this crime really hurt — the most vulnerable in our society,” said Attorney General Rob Bonta. “EDD theft hurts families in need, parents left without jobs during a pandemic, and Californians struggling to get by. That’s why I’m thankful for my agents, and for our partners in the EDD and CDCR, for their work together on this case.”
"This case sends another strong message that EDD holds identity thieves and fraudsters accountable for their crimes,” said EDD Director Nancy Farias. “We appreciate the tireless work of EDD’s investigations staff and our law enforcement partners investigating this complex case. EDD will continue to work closely with law enforcement agencies and prosecutors to hold accountable criminals who stole identities and defrauded the unemployment system."
“One of our top priorities has been to investigate and collaborate closely with our statewide taskforce partners on the unprecedented amount of unemployment insurance fraud cases our state has seen since 2020. Fraud of this nature is abhorrent, and caused harm to people and families during their time of need,” said CDCR Secretary Kathleen Allison. “The department has dedicated resources and agents to the taskforce so that together, we can ensure anyone responsible for defrauding hard-working Californians from access to unemployment benefits is held accountable.”
The criminal complaint alleges that the thefts were carried out over a period of 1.5 years, from April 2020 to September 2021. The investigation revealed that the suspect was employed by a private company that contracted with the prison, and through her employment she may have gained access to prisoners’ personal information.
The suspect was arrested on October 15, 2022 by a team of CDCR agents in Contra Costa County and taken into custody. California DOJ’s Criminal Law Division, Special Prosecutions Section, is prosecuting the case. The suspect was arraigned on October 19, 2022 in Sacramento County Superior Court.
EDD runs one of the nation’s largest public benefit systems. Over 20 million people filed over 60 million unemployment, disability insurance, and paid family leave claims over the past decade. EDD prepared, printed, and mailed 45 million documents to customers through the most recent fiscal quarters. EDD was mailing nearly 600,000 a day during the height of the pandemic.
California and every state in the nation experienced unprecedented fraud attempts during the early part of the pandemic. The vast majority of these schemes were linked to the emergency federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, which lacked the safeguards in traditional state unemployment insurance, and is no longer in effect. California took many additional actions to halt fraudsters and prevent tens of billions of dollars in further fraud attempts.
The TRUE Task Force, which is made up of members of DOJ, the California Franchise Tax Board, EDD, and the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration, investigates and prosecutes economic crimes in the underground economy. That includes combating fraud, wage theft, tax evasion, piracy, the sale of black-market drugs, among other crimes. The task force consists of attorneys, investigators, and special agents from the member agencies. You can find more information about it here.
It is important to note that criminal charges are only allegations against a person. Every defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
A copy of the complaint can be found here.