Reporting Kurtis Ming
The state of California took money straight out of a Grass Valley grandmother’s bank account. After the state admitted a criminal really owes the money, CBS13 investigated how this could happen.
When a felon goes to prison, we learned they can give any name, Social Security number or birth date they want. But how does that lead to a grandma having money plucked right out of her savings?
Eric Hemminger likes having his mom, Jeanne Miller nearby. She has a home on the same property.
“It’s nice to have her around in her golden years,” said Hemminger.
He helps with her finances, so when she had a $721 bank withdrawal from the Franchise Tax Board, Hemminger looked into it.
“It was from the people who collect taxes, so she thought maybe it was a late fee for taxes and we hadn’t filed on time,” said Hemminger.
“So I just figured it was something I owed, and I was going to pay it,” said Miller.
But paperwork from the state shows it’s a court-ordered debt owed to the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board.
The order from the state has Miller’s Social Security number on it, but it’s for a felon currently in prison named Jermain Kirk.
“I contacted the bank and they said there’s nothing they can do. It was a court order and they have to abide by it and that we’d have to talk to the state,” said Hemminger.
The victim claims board told us Kirk, a convicted burglar, gave the wrong Social Security number. But how could the state allow money to be wrongfully taken from this senior citizen’s account?
“They should be double-checking,” said Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.
He thinks the state should have verified Miller’s account was linked to the felon before taking her money.
“We have an innocent victim here who’s having money taken out of her account illegally and inappropriately,” said Coupal.
But claims board officials say they have no ability to double check Social Security numbers provided by inmates. The Franchise Tax Board says it can, but they quickly added this wasn’t their fault. They refused to go on camera answering how this happened.
Miller and Hemminger weren’t happy to hear it could be 16 weeks to get her money back.
“Then I was told, ‘Hey, you’re not special. There’s a lot of people before you and after you that this same thing has happened to,’” said Hemminger.
Once CBS13 got involved, Miller received an apology from the claims board and a refund.
“Still unbelievable that it would happen,” said Miller.
So the question remains – how can this happen? The Franchise Tax Board refuses to give us answers.
We reached out to Miller’s bank, which admits it also could have also caught this once it made it to them.
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation tells us it’s aware prisoners are giving inaccurate information. They’re now talking about validating Social Security numbers right when the felon is locked up.