Authorities in California say they've uncovered the "most significant fraud on taxpayer funds" in state history—and most of the perpetrators are already behind bars. Nine district attorneys and a federal prosecutor said Tuesday that tens of thousands of prisoners, including many on death row, had scammed the state for hundreds of millions of dollars in unemployment benefits. The Los Angeles Times reports that those who illegally received benefits under the pandemic relief system include Scott Peterson, who is serving life in San Quentin for the murder of his wife and their unborn son, and serial killer Cary Stayner, who is on death row at the prison. "The murderers and rapists and human traffickers should not be getting this money,” said Sacramento County DA Anne Marrie Schubert. "It needs to stop."
California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday that a task force will fight the "absolutely unacceptable" fraud. The district attorneys said they uncovered the fraud after working with California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation officials, the New York Times reports. Officials say they discovered that between March and August, some 35,000 state payments were sent out in the name of state prisoners. The payments added up to more than $140 million, with close to $500,000 going to 133 death row inmates. The DAs believe the total fraud could add up to around $1 billion. Investigators say California doesn't have the technology to cross-check prison rolls against lists of unemployment insurance claimants, but the Department of Labor was able to check federal claim data against a list of California inmates. (Read more California stories.)