EDD fraud, frozen Bank of America funds continue to plague California's jobless workers

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Millions of Californians have already lost their jobs because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For some, the unemployment money that's been helping them survive has been ripped away because of massive fraud at the state's Employment Development Department.

The fraud has led to many innocent people seeing their benefits frozen and having funds removed from their Bank of America accounts while investigations are undertaken.

And many of them report dealing with the EDD and BofA to try to straighten out the situation has been incredibly frustrating.

"You get a different response every time," said fraud victim Randy Austin. "The only thing that's the same is in the end there's nothing I can do but wait."

Austin had all the money taken out of his EDD account in October, and he's been unable to even reach someone to try to get it back.

"Every time I call there's no one I can talk to, there's no one I can send anything to."

Assemblyman Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, has been among many critics of the EDD.

"These are embarrassing circumstances for the state of California," Patterson said.

Fraudsters - including prison inmates - using fake accounts may have taken up to $1 billion meant for people who lost their jobs.

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With new stay-at-home closures, expect more people filing for unemployment.

"We are seeing repeated efforts by Bank of America to simply empty bank accounts," Patterson said.

Aaron Arredondo had thousands taken out of his EDD account.

"Not only did I lose my job due to COVID and I'm struggling financially anyway, now I am in debt to the bank with no means to pay my rent or buy food for my family," Arredondo said.

The agency sent us a statement which says: "The EDD is dedicated to doing everything possible to ensure legitimate claimants get the benefits they are eligible to receive while working with our partners like Bank of America to shut down fraudulent claims, and law-enforcement agencies to bring offenders to justice."

Kenny Castro had his account frozen in October. He is taking care of his grandmother and now can't pay his bills.

"Instead of helping out people that work for a living and who have been affected by the virus they're just allowing us to sit here and suffer," Castro said.

"This is just a fundamental failure and I know I am tired of it," Patterson said. "And I think the people of California are tired of the excuse making."

Prosecutors in nine counties are looking into the EDD and thousands of cases of fraud.
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