The “most significant fraud on taxpayer funds in California history” occurred under the watch of Julie Su, a top contender to become Joe Biden’s Labor Secretary.
According to a New York Times report, tens of thousands of inmates — including 133 death row inmates — scammed the state of California out of tens of millions of dollars in unemployment benefits. Su is the secretary of the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency, which oversaw the almost $1 billion in fraudulent payments.
The checks were distributed to some of the worst offenders in the state, including Cary Stayner, Scott Peterson, Isauro Aguirre. Stayner, one of the serial killers who received payments, has been in prison since he murdered several women in Yosemite National Park in 1999. Peterson has been in prison since killing his pregnant wife Laci in 2004. Aguirre was convicted of torturing an 8-year-old to death in 2013.
These were just a few inmates who were dolled taxpayer-funded unemployment checks under Su’s watch. Meanwhile, as many as 1.8 million Californians had their unemployment payments delayed because of the influx of applications during the pandemic. Su took responsibility for the delays in April and vowed to correct the agency’s response, but it’s evident that deep problems — from chronic fraud, to countless Californians missing benefits — still exist. The delays and other major glitches prompted the audit which uncovered the fraudulent payments to California prisoners.
The investigators noted that California lacked the technology to crosscheck unemployment applications with the state’s 58 county jails, state hospitals, and other institutions. The state did, however, have the ability to crosscheck state prisons where fraudulent disbursements were still uncovered. Fraudulent payments were spotted in each and every one of the state’s prisons.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom called the problem staggering. While investigators did shine a light on the fraud, there are no guarantees that Su’s agency will be able to stop it. This track record suggests that more scrutiny is needed before elevating Su to a higher-profile position.