21 arrested in $250K coronavirus unemployment fraud scheme using California inmates' information

More than 20 people in California were arrested in connection with an elaborate scheme in which they used the personal information of 30 inmates to file more than $250,000 worth of bogus unemployment claims, officials said.

The San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office announced Saturday the discovery of a “large-scale Pandemic Unemployment Assistance fraud ring” run out of San Mateo County’s Maguire Correctional Facility and responsible for 16 claims that were filed between June 9 and July 30, the department said in a press release.

The investigation began after a law enforcement officer within the jail “overheard inmates conversing about these fraudulent claims,” the release states. So far, police have discovered more than $250,000 in illegitimate payments and have recovered $150,000 in cash, officials said.

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The sheriff’s office, in collaboration with the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office, discovered that 30 inmates’ information had been used, police said. A combination of inmates within the facility and people on the outside were charged for the scheme.

“This is the first type of fraudulent ring we have had involving inmates at our facility," the release states, "and we have been in contact with representatives from the [State of California Employment Development Department] to ensure there are no further fraudulent claims being filed using inmate information."