Bakersfield · COVID-19

Kern prosecutors charge fraudsters who bilked nearly $400k in unemployment

Seventeen people have been charged in an unemployment insurance fraud scheme that cost the state Employment Development Department more than $394,555, Kern prosecutors told KGET on Friday.

Charges include grand theft and conspiracy with some defendants facing three years in prison, others six and one a 12-year term if convicted, according to a District Attorney’s office statement.

“Investigators have been working to hold responsible those that defrauded Californians of billions of dollars in funding,” District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer said in a release. “These recent filings indicate the progress that continues to be made toward bringing to justice the participants in the greatest fraud in state history.”

During the pandemic, more than $20 billion was fraudulently taken by “people, gangs, or fraud rings” — including inmates, the release says. Some fraudulent applications were submitted online using stolen identities while in other cases inmates worked with people on the outside to submit claims on their behalf.

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Staff reports from The San Joaquin Valley Sun staff.