California district attorneys are banding together and calling on Gov. Gavin Newsom to help them stop unemployment benefit scams that are on their way to costing the state of California more than $2 billion.
In a letter sent to state legislators in California on Monday, Bank of America revealed that it has uncovered more than 345,000 accounts that the bank suspects of fraudulent activity. Bank of America handles the unemployment money distributed by the state.
“Our assessment is that there is activity consistent with fraud in those accounts on the order of approximately $2 billion,” the bank’s director of California government relations, Brian Putler, told the lawmakers.
The main focus of the fraudulent activity centers around the state prison system. California was one of 15 states that did not cross-check Social Security numbers with prison inmate records and now it’s clear that inmates jumped at the opportunity to receive unemployment benefits.
District attorneys from across the state have criticized Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state’s Employment Development Department for not having a cross-check system in place and being slow to respond to problems with the program. Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert has called the unemployment scam the biggest fraud case in California history.
The fraud extends well beyond the prison system and even beyond California’s border as the bank discovered more than 76,000 debit cards sent to recipients in states that don’t even border California.
Less than two weeks ago, prosecutors in California estimated the fraud would reach around $400 million with the potential to go as high as $1 billion. Now 10 days later, that estimate has doubled.