California has given away at least $20 billion to criminals in the form of fraudulent unemployment benefits, confirming a number smaller than originally feared but one that still accounts for more than 11 percent of all benefits paid since the start of the pandemic, reports the Los Angeles Times. State officials blamed nearly all of that fraud on a hastily approved expansion of unemployment benefits by Congress that let people who were self-employed get weekly checks from the government with few safeguards to stop people who were not eligible to receive them.
The fraud was so widespread in California that state officials approved at least $810 million in benefits in the names of people who were in prison, including dozens of infamous killers on death row. State officials even sent $21,000 in benefits to an address in Roseville under the name and Social Security number of U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), some of the $2 million in total fraudulent payments that were sent to that same address. Employment Development Department Director Rita Saenz said the state has implemented new identity verification software that, along with other preventative measures, has stopped an estimated $120 billion in fraud attempts.