By CBSLA Staff

SAN DIEGO (CBSLA) — Criminal charges were filed Thursday against nine inmates who allegedly received more than $160,000 in fraudulent EDD claims, according to the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office.

The inmates were identified as Ronald Davenport, 28; Zachary Frost, 31; Larry Van Johnson, 51; Daniel Eric Kisner, 42; Paul Ryan Owens, 41; Louis Terrell Bannister, 31; Erik Mikeal Nemec, 32; Roberto Ochoa, 27; and Javion Wallace, 26. All of them were assigned to a San Diego program that allowed them to serve the final months of their sentences in a halfway house setting, the District Attorney’s office said.

Prosecutors say between June and September of last year, they filed fraudulent claims with the state’s unemployment benefit system, lying about their eligibility and addresses, which was also a violation of state prison rules about applying for public aid.

“These inmates were not only breaking the rules and gaming the system, they added insult to injury for families relying on legitimate unemployment benefits to make ends meet during the ongoing pandemic,” District Attorney Summer Stephan said in a statement. “We believe the amount of fraud committed by inmates in San Diego County could total as much as $5 million and we have just begun to hold these, and other inmates accountable for their crimes.”

Supervisors and agents assigned to program uncovered the fraud while investigating how the inmates were receiving luxury items from Amazon and food deliveries from restaurants. The inmates had downloaded mobile banking applications to their cell phones which showed they each had access to well-funded accounts – even though none of them were employed. Some of them were even found to be electronically transferring money to each other, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

California Department Of Corrections and Rehabilitation investigators determined each inmate had conspired and helped other incarcerated person fraudulent gain access to $166,132 in EDD funds.