As we are all aware the pandemic has brought forth unprecedented times, for everyone. We have seen things drastically change in such a quick period of time, and it’s easy to say that everyone has been affected by this on one way or another. Things like stimulus payments, housing forgiveness, and increased assistance have been many of the major changes we have seen. However, one of the biggest changes we have seen during this time is unemployment, across the entire country. We saw the highest unemployment levels since the Great Depression and we even saw an unemployment rate of 14.8% in April of 2020. Due to the major increase in unemployment we saw the implementation of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance which provided individuals with an extra payment of anywhere from $300-600 a week on top of their weekly benefit amount. Many people found that they were making much more money on unemployment than they ever did employed. With anything involving money there is the likelihood and chance of people taking advantage and fraudulent activity. That is exactly what we saw here in California. Over $400 million dollars was paid out to over 21,000 unemployment claims to California prison inmates. The claims were filed using the name of the inmate and funds were then sent in the form of a debit card to the address used when filing. Scott Peterson who was convicted of killing his wife Lacey Peterson and unborn son was named as a claimant by a local prosecutor. It was first detected in San Mateo County when a group of 21 inmates, who were part of a fraud ring collected over $250,000 in unemployment benefits. In some cases, it is said that the inmates could potentially have been unaware their information was being used to collect the benefits.

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-12-01/california-prisoner-unemployment-fraud-estimated-400-million

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Hayley Singer

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