By CBSLA Staff

RIVERSIDE (CBSLA) — A parolee and a current Ironwood State Prison inmate were charged this week in a scheme that defrauded the California EDD of more than $500,000.

The charges against 28-year-old Brandon Christopher Avery and 27-year-old Donald Marshawn Peer, who is currently incarcerated at Ironwood State Prison for unrelated offenses, are part of an ongoing Riverside County District Attorney’s Office investigation into EDD fraud committed by inmates in the county’s jails and prisons.

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Prosecutors say they caught on to the scheme when the investigation identified inmates at Ironwood State Prison whose unemployment benefit applications were sent in from the same IP address.

The investigation led to Peer, who had been making calls to Avery, a previous Ironwood State Prison inmate who had been released in May of last year, according to the DA’s Office. Avery was found to have deposited more than $1,500 to several inmates, sometimes using their EDD benefits debit cards, prosecutors said.

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Peer was heard in recorded phone calls giving the personal information of several inmates so Avery could file fraudulent EDD claims, and Avery explaining how much he would pay Peer for every person whose EDD claim was approved, prosecutors said. In the phone calls, investigators say Peer gave Avery the personal information of 19 people, including inmates, whose total benefits paid out $178,544.

Avery’s cell phone was seized in October of last year due to a violation of his post-release community supervision, allowing investigators to find the personal information of 33 other people, according to prosecutors. Investigators say they also found text messages sent to other people, requesting to use their addresses to receive EDD mail and offering payment for each card that arrived at that address.

The total amount of the EDD benefits paid out for the inmates and others found on Avery’s cell phone was $518,030, Riverside County District Attorney’s officials said.

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Avery pleaded not guilty to the charges on Monday, and is scheduled to make his next court appearance on Nov. 3. Peer, who remains in prison, faces 16 felonies in the case, and will be transported for arraignment in the coming weeks, prosecutors said.