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Kern DA: 4 cases involving 10 people filed in state EDD fraud scandal

The Kern County District Attorney’s Office has filed four cases relating to 10 individuals concerning the state’s unemployment fraud scandal that ran rampant throughout California during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to DA's Office spokesman Joseph Kinzel, there are more investigations underway. The four cases' defendants are:

• Gabriel Alvarez-Soto, Caroline Anorve, Jeans Rene Anorve and Ivette Gomez

• Richard Derderian and Melissa Godshall

• Charles Chelossi and Devon Brown

• Wade Benson and Deborah Hicks.

According to the Associated Press, a California task force formed five months ago to investigate fraudulent unemployment claims involving incarcerated people said Monday that there have so far been 68 arrests and it has opened 1,641 other inquiries.

The report by the statewide task force comes after local prosecutors warned that potentially tens of thousands of fraudulent claims have been filed involving people in prison and jail that could total $2 billion, according to the AP.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced in November that he was asking state officials to form a task force with federal prosecutors and county district attorneys who had already begun investigating improper claims filed in the names of people behind bars, including those on death row.

Some state lawmakers remain critical of Newsom, saying the state did not act fast enough to stop fraud in prisons, the AP stated.

Before Newsom formed the task force, nine district attorneys and a federal prosecutor said in November they saw indications that potentially tens of thousands of fraudulent claims were filed in the names of people in prison or jail who are ineligible to receive unemployment benefits.