Scott Peterson scam: Who are the California death row inmates who got over $140M as Covid-19 unemployment benefits

Nine district attorneys across California and a federal prosecutor made these allegations and called for Governor Gavin Newsom to intervene to stop unemployment swindling in California jails


                            Scott Peterson scam: Who are the California death row inmates who got over $140M as Covid-19 unemployment benefits
Scott Peterson (Police Department)

Convicted killer Scott Peterson is among multiple California inmates, including several convicted murderers, who have now received more than $140 million in Covid-19 unemployment benefits. California prosecutors say they’ve uncovered a massive scam that allowed these death row inmates to receive coronavirus unemployment benefits administered by the state, a report said on November 24. 

A group of state and federal prosecutors said that up to $1 billion in payments were made by the state's Employment Development Department, for the jail inmates in order to provide financial aid to struggling residents during the pandemic. Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert stated it is one of at least 35,000 unemployment requests made on behalf of prison inmates between March and August. Schubert said of that 20,000 claims were paid out totaling $140 million in benefits. At least 158 claims have been filed for 133 inmates on death row. One of the most prominent claims was a payment of $19,676 to a death row inmate and $48,600 to another unidentified inmate.  It's unclear if any of these inmates were able to cash the debit cards they received. Schubert said EDD fraud is running rampant through California's prison system. 

Among the inmates who are taking the advantage of the fund are

Scott Peterson

Born on October 24, 1972, Scott Lee Peterson is a convicted murderer, who killed his pregnant wife Laci Peterson in Modesto, California in 2004. In 2005, he was sentenced to death by lethal injection. On August 24, 2020, his death penalty was overturned and his conviction was upheld.

Cary Stayner

Cary Stayner (Police Department)

Cary Anthony Stayner was convicted in the murders of four women between February and July 1999: Carole Sund, her teenage daughter Juli Sund and their teenage traveling companion Silvina Pelosso and Yosemite Institute naturalist Joie Ruth Armstrong. The murders took place in Mariposa County, California, near Yosemite National Park. He was sentenced to death for the four murders and is still on death row at San Quentin Penitentiary in California.

Isauro Aguirre

Isauro Aguirre (Police Department)

In 2013, Isauro Aguirre murdered 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez, after forcing the kid to eat his own vomit and cat feces before severely beating him to death. The 39-year-old Palmdale native was admitted to the San Quentin State Prison and his death date is yet to be announced. 

"The murderers and rapists and human traffickers should not be getting this money. It needs to stop," Schubert stated. Riverside District Attorney Mike Hestrin narrated one instance where a prison inmate was heard bragging about using the profits to buy his mom a $400 watch.  

Governor, Gavin Newsom, responded in a statement on Tuesday, November 25, where he called the scams "unacceptable" and pledged a taskforce to investigate. "Unemployment fraud across local jails and state and federal prisons is absolutely unacceptable. Earlier this year, I launched a strike team to expedite unemployment payments and to minimize abuse of the system. When we saw evidence of fraud in correctional facilities, I directed the Employment Development Department to review its practices and to take immediate actions to prevent fraud and to hold people accountable when fraud is not prevented," he said.