LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Since first reporting that dozens and dozens of letters from the California Employment Development Department were arriving at a vacant Los Angeles-area home last week, countless others have started reporting that the same thing is happening to them.
“What started as a trickle quickly became a flood of debit cards and notifications from unemployment sent to dozens of individuals,” Daniel Frankel, a homeowner, said. “Over the course of the first week, around August 20th, I would say I received around 100 notices.”
Frankel lives in West Adams. Another homeowner, Mike Flint, said he received 40 letters addressed to 40 different people at his home in Wilshire Park.
“It’s a concern on every level how 40 people could ascertain this particular address,” Flint said. “And it reeks for everything of fraud.”
Both men said they started receiving the letters within days of putting their homes on the market, and neither has an open claim with the EDD — though Frankel said he has relied on unemployment benefits in the past.
“And to see it be abused at this very harrowing time is really kind of tragic,” Frankel said.
But Frankel and Flint are not the only ones receiving the letters with homeowners in Highland Park, West Los Angeles, Palmdale and Whittier all reporting letters have been arriving at their homes — all of which are on the market.
“A girlfriend called me and said, ‘You need to turn on the news, like this is you,'” Regina Milliot, the Whittier homeowner, said. “She was helping me pack and I had showed her the letters and said, ‘Look at this, isn’t this weird?'”
In light of what looks to be widespread fraud, both Democrat and Republican leaders have called for an emergency audit of the EDD.
“I’m not going to make the claim that the EDD is an inside job, but I’m getting close,” Assemblyman Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, said. “We’ve got to find out whether or not the ring is inside or outside.”
And while EDD has a fraud hotline, CBS Los Angeles was unable to get through to speak to a person.
“I left numerous voicemails for the fraud hotline, and none of them were returned,” Frankel said.
EDD Thursday confirmed it was dealing with what it suspected to be widespread fraud, admitting that many of the letters contained benefit cards loaded with cash, and said that the department would undergo an audit.
And late Thursday night, details were coming in about a pair of brothers arrested on suspicion of fraud. According to detectives in Thousand Oaks, the brothers are accused of stealing identities from dozens of people, filing fraudulent unemployment claims and withdrawing $164,000 from ATMs.
Earlier this week, Gov. Gavin Newsom said he has added five new people to “get under the hood” at EDD and investigate the possible fraud.
EDD said anyone who receives a letter not meant for them should return it to the department and file a fraud report online.