Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry and the Louisiana Bureau of Investigation (LBI) announced on Wednesday that 8 Louisianans have been arrested for defrauding the California Employment Development Department (EDD) out of $1 million last year.
In total, the sweep covered 8 people defrauding the EDD and 5 others, including a few involved with the California fraud, of taking $60,000 from the Louisiana Workplace Commission. As of Wednesday, a total of 8 people have been arrested through three separate investigations, with 2 others currently being sought by Louisiana authorities.
While the amounts are low in relation to each state’s unemployment office being defrauded, Louisiana with $405 million and California with a confirmed $11 billion that could be as high as $31 billion, officials have said that they highlight that progress is being made. In past months, federal, state, and local authorities have been arrested many accused of perpetrating unemployment fraud through the EDD. In April, two people accused of scamming $675,000 from the EDD were arrested in Knoxville, Tennessee and later extradited to California, with hundreds of investigations into prisoners getting EDD money also beginning to show results. On Tuesday, a new investigative advisor to the EDD fraud case also announced going more after domestic and international groups who took large chunks of the unemployment funds illegally.
Landry vowed to get more fraudsters in a statement on Wednesday, including those who defrauded other states such as California.
“With the unemployment system being as overwhelmed and insecure as it has been, it is no surprise that bad actors are coming out of the woodworks to take advantage of it,” said Louisiana Attorney General Landry. “So my office will continue investigating false claims and doing what we legally can to bring criminals to justice.”
Experts noted that many arrests may only be a start into a large new wave of arrests, as many investigations had been building up in previous months but had been sidetracked by remaining COVID-19 restrictions and inclement weather in many regions.
“California has done a lot by itself, and as we saw today, through assists with other states,” attorney Ashley Ford, who has had employment fraud cases, told the Globe on Wednesday. “California has by far the most, with between $11 billion and [$31 billion] in fraudulent cases through the EDD, so it’s going to take a lot. The arrest of people amounting to $1 million worth of fraud would have been a huge deal in most other states in terms of proportion stolen. But here it’s a drop in the bucket. But it is a drop nonetheless. These guys are finally being caught.”
“The big challenge next are the prisoners and the criminal group who performed more organized fraud. [Fraud Special Counsel McGregor] Scott vowed to focus on them even more yesterday, so we’ll hopefully be seeing more progress on this soon. A lot of lawmakers don’t want this hanging over them come election day next year after all.”
More unemployment fraud arrests are expected in California and other states in the coming weeks and months.
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