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Local, State and Federal law enforcement collaborate to protect Californians from unemployment insurance fraud

The Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) in partnership with State’s Districts Attorney’s and the US Attorney’s Office continue to investigate and remediate fraud within state and federal unemployment insurance programs. Under the guidance of this state level coordination group, new safeguards have already been put in place to protect Californians as ongoing investigations continue to move forward in a collaborative fashion.

Established on November 24, the state level coordination group on unemployment insurance fraud – which also includes participation from the Federal Bureau of investigation, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) among others – has worked closely with the California Employment Development Department (EDD) to employ new tools and bolster existing programs to strengthen its fraud detection methods. Changes include amplified fraud detection criteria as advised by Thompson Reuters, and a new data sharing system with the state prison system to stop any payments to incarcerated individuals.

“California is committed to making steady progress to swiftly identify and stop fraud that has occurred during the Pandemic within the unemployment benefits system. We thank our local, state and federal partners for their collaborative efforts to date, and we will continue to work in unison with them to protect Californians and to aggressively investigate and bring to justice those responsible for unemployment fraud” said Mark Ghilarducci, Director of the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.

“A fraud scheme of this magnitude, involving potentially billions of taxpayer dollars and thousands of fraudsters requires a united law enforcement approach. We have built a team of federal, state and local partners, and We are pleased and proud to work with them to investigate and prosecute the fraud arising out of the pandemic,” said U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott. “We have already indicted multiple defendants, and a large number of cases are in the pipeline. The U.S. Attorney’s Office and our partners are committed to the mission of combatting fraud that abuses the provisions of the CARES Act.”

“As Elected District Attorneys and representing District Attorneys across CA, we continue to be concerned about the staggering fraud that has been committed by incarcerated individuals. However, with the collaboration of Cal OES, EDD, CDCR and law enforcement, we’ve made significant progress in addressing this fraud. We remain committed to ensuring that hard working Californians impacted by the pandemic are prioritized in receiving their rightful benefits,” said Anne Marie Schubert, Sacramento County District Attorney and statewide Task Force Leader.

“As the President of the California District Attorney Association (CDAA), I applaud the efforts of the EDD PUA fraud statewide task force. Significant progress has been made by this group, however; we recognize much more work is needed, at all levels of government. California’s District Attorneys are deeply concerned with the magnitude and pervasiveness of this fraud occurring both inside and outside of our correctional facilities at a time when California’s families are suffering from the fallout of the pandemic. CDAA remains committed to this statewide task force and will utilize every investigative tool to bring to justice those who have purposefully manipulated a system designed to help those who are struggling to survive. We appreciate the engagement and the unification of effort led by Mark Ghilarducci and Tom Osborne at the Office of Emergency Services in this effort as well as that of CDCR and EDD. CDAA is committed to the development of long term solutions to fraud through the elimination of barriers to effective collaboration and information sharing,” said Vern Pierson, President, California District Attorneys Association and El Dorado County District Attorney.

Some of the collaborative efforts of the task force to date include:

  • Establishing a joint executive level multi agency coordination group to facilitate a unity of effort, coordinate actions and streamline statewide investigative efforts.
  • Expanding contract between EDD and Thomson Reuters toapply additional industry standard fraud detection criteria and take action on claims deemed highly suspect or fraudulent.
    • Thomson Reuters/Pondera works with many states and is the vendor recommended by the California District Attorneys.
    • Thomson Reuters’ fraud screen identified 3.5 million existing claims as potentially fraudulent, approximately 1.9 million of these had already been disqualified by EDD. EDD took action on December 26 to stop payment on the remaining 1.4 million accounts.
  • Allocating $5 million in state funding to immediately support and enhance the joint investigative efforts of regional District Attorney Task Forces.
  • Establishing a new data sharing agreement which allows the CDCR to more broadly share information with EDD investigators to accelerate cross-matching of inmate data to more rapidly identify fraudulent claims being made by or on behalf incarcerated individuals. It will also help to identify and eradicate any potential fraud within both the state prison system as well as local jail facilities.
  • Working with ID.me to strengthen the EDD identity verification process. Since ID.me was launched in October and an estimated 30% of claims have been stopped by ID.me.
  • Leveraging and sharing multi agency resources to streamline investigative efforts and de-conflict case data across the state to prevent duplication of effort, increase coordination and insure for continued collaboration.
  • Utilizing the State cyber security threat intelligence, big data analysis and threat assessment capabilities to support investigative efforts.
  • Supporting federal, state and local law enforcement in conducting search warrants, indictments and facilitating arrests of fraud perpetrators.
  • Increasing collaboration by incorporating regional investigative task force efforts into state level coordination.

The State level coordination taskforce was created at the Direction of Governor Gavin Newsom, who directed Cal OES to facilitate the joint efforts, with District Attorneys and the US Attorney’s Office of multiple local, state and federal law enforcement entities to hold those responsible for PUA/UI accountable to fullest extent possible under the law.
The full list of organizations participating in this effort includes: California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES), the California District Attorneys Association, United States Department of Labor-Office of the Inspector General, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), United States Secret Service (USSS), US Attorney’s Office, United States Marshalls Service, Federal Bureau of Prisons, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and the California Employee Development Department (EDD).

This article was released by Cal OES.