Inmates at Maguire Correctional Facility in Redwood City unlawfully claimed COVID-19 pandemic unemployment benefits while they were incarcerated in what investigators describe as a large-scale fraud ring.
“Multiple arrest and search warrants caught 21 people responsible for 16 fraudulent claims using 30 different inmates’ personal information to claim unemployment while they are incarcerated,” the San Mateo County Sheriff’s office announced Friday.
The fraudulent claims amount to at least $250,000 in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) funds. PUA is a federal CARES Act program that assists unemployed Californians who are not usually eligible for typical unemployment benefits, such as business owners, self-employed workers and independent contractors.
Investigators reportedly overheard inmates talking about the fraudulent PUA claims. The investigation involving the Employment Development Department began in July, and on Friday multiple arrests were made and search warrants were executed in three counties for people who were not in custody but were participating in the EDD fraud, the sheriff’s office said.
“While executing those search warrants, $150,000 cash was recovered, and the other fraudulent payment activity is still under investigation,” the sheriff’s office said.
Inmates involved who were already in custody were booked on new charges.
“This is the first type of fraudulent ring we have had involving inmates at our facility and we have been in contact with representatives from the EDD to ensure there are no further fraudulent claims being filed using inmate information,” the sheriff’s office said.