SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – The recent revelation of the billion-dollar EDD fraud linked to California inmates is just the latest in a long line of EDD failures — several of them were first exposed by CBS13.
So what can be done to fix the agency?
Follow Our Continuing Coverage: CBS13 Investigates EDD Identity Theft Concerns
“Not only is this disturbing and disheartening, but it feels like Groundhog Day,” said California Assemblyman Chiu, who is one of many public officials noting that the billion-dollar inmate unemployment fraud is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
“I thought about the recent report of 30,000 addresses,” he said, pointing to EDD data, obtained exclusively by CBS13, that includes more than 30,000 addresses used to apply for EDD benefits for 10 or more different people. In some cases, there were more than 1,000 claims filed at each address.
“Clear examples of fraud,” Chiu said.
The vast majority of the addresses obtained by CBS13 were mailbox rentals with thousands of unique claims or homes that were listed for rent or for sale amid the pandemic. Experts say scammers used these addresses in hopes of plucking EDD debit cards out of the mail before anyone noticed.
We now know, they likely sent some of that money to inmates behind bars.
“We have not been able to get accurate information from EDD leadership for many, many months. And we have had to rely on investigative reporters like yourself to inform us on what’s happening within state government,” he said.
Chiu pointed to last year’s EDD audit, which was prompted a multi-year CBS13 investigation into the agency compromising millions of Californian’s by exposing full social security numbers in the mail. State law prohibits mailing full social security numbers.
However, more than a year after the audit, EDD still has not complied with auditors’ recommendations to remove social security numbers from its mailing before the March 2020 deadline. If they had, the auditor said, millions may not have been compromised amid the pandemic.
Watts: “What can be done to fix this agency if they’re not following through with the auditors’ recommendations?”
Chiu: “The responsibility for this is fundamentally with the leadership at EDD. I am in discussions about legislative solutions to address this.”
He says they are looking toward an upcoming emergency EDD audit to provide guidance for new legislation to address the EDD’s failures.
The EDD director announced she is retiring at the end of the year. Many are now hoping for a top-down overhaul of leadership.
Follow Our Continuing Coverage
CBS13 Investigates: EDD Identity Theft Concerns
NOTE: CBS13 Investigative Reporter Julie Watts was based at the CBS San Francisco station (KPIX) when this investigation began and has continued the work after moving to CBS Sacramento. The stories have aired on CBS stations across California.