Officials say it was a fraud run by an inmate in Men's Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles. He apparently was using his real name and having unemployment benefits sent to three different addresses. Under law, inmates are allowed to have financial accounts. The money was allegedly cashed by the man's father and girlfriends, then deposited in his account to benefit him and other gang members.
Three people allegedly cashed $20,000 in unemployment checks made out to a man in jail convicted of murder. Officials say the unemployment money benefited other criminals.
"Multiple gang members from multiple gangs received this money that was funneled back to them, we believe, in this criminal enterprise," said L.A. County Sheriff's Dept. Captain Mike Parker.
Anthony Garcia was convicted of murdering a liquor store owner in 2004. He tattooed the crime scene in detail on his chest, and that led to his arrest and conviction in 2008.
Officials say while in jail, Garcia received unemployment checks in the amount of $1,600 per month for a year and a half.
Those checks were allegedly cashed by his two girlfriends, 25-year-old Cynthia Limas, and 45-year-old Sandra Jaimez. Garcia's father, 47-year-old Juan Garcia, was also allegedly part of the scheme. Investigators say he is also a gang member.
Those three have been charged with conspiracy to commit grand theft and unemployment fraud.
Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley issued a statement: "It's no wonder the state is facing such financial difficulties. The most alarming element is that the state does not have effective methods to detect and prevent fraudulent claims."
Inmates are not entitled to unemployment benefits. The money was allegedly sent to Garcia's gang.
"We do know that some of it was used for narcotics activity as well as other crimes," said Parker.
The California Employment Development Department released a statement that said being in prison would make someone ineligible for benefits because they couldn't meet the requirement of being able to accept a job. They also said they have numerous procedures in place to stop fraud.