What do Etosha L. Slaughter, John Dufin, Anthony Bryant, Fred Fuchs and Rebecca L. Bearden all have in common? The “same” Pacific Palisades address.
None of the people live there or have ever lived at this residential address, but all received letters addressed to them from the overwhelmed California Employment Development Department (EDD).
Circling the News learned about this mystery when a Palisades resident emailed us and said, “I started receiving two to three pieces a week from the EDD to people I’ve never heard. Today I received 10 pieces alone.”
The resident had contacted the EDD fraud line, but never received a response.
We asked the man to open one of the letters to see if it was just a general form letter, but it actually had the person’s social security number listed at the top and stated in a headline: “Request for Identity Verification.” The enclosed return envelope had the correct EDD address.
CTN reached out to the EDD office and a spokesperson responded in a September 14, email, “EDD is aggressively fighting fraud in the wake of unscrupulous attacks on the unemployment program here in California and across the country.
“These perpetrators are often using stolen identity information from national and global data breaches, as well as exploiting expedited payment efforts in the federal PUA (Pandemic Unemployment Assistance) program. Claims identified as suspected fraud have been suspended or closed while EDD investigators partner with local, state, and federal law enforcement to expose and prosecute offenders to the fullest extent of the law.”
According to a September 8 CBS report (“Unsolicited EDD Letters Arriving at Wrong Addresses”), El Cajon resident Tylar Bailey said she had been getting EDD letters, sometimes 10 at a time. “I’ve received probably close to 40. The majority of them I have sent back, ‘return to sender, not at this address,’” Bailey said, noting that the letters are all from EDD and have her home address, but someone else’s name above the address.
In a September 4 NBC story, reporters spoke to several recipients statewide, who all shared a common story: mailboxes overflowing with letters from EDD, addressed to someone else.
“Carlos Gomez in California City may have the biggest stack of all. ‘If I had to guess, probably 200 altogether,’ he told us.” Gomez said that no one in his household had filed for unemployment.
Assemblymember Richard Bloom’s Santa Monica office responded to CTN’s inquiry on behalf of the Palisades resident, and a spokesperson wrote on September 14: “EDD has asked people who have received these letters to put them in an envelope and mail them to the Fraud Investigation Unit at the highlighted address above (EDD, PO Box 826880, MIC 43, Sacramento, CA 94280-0225).
“Some constituents have expressed concern over the cost of postage to send the letters to EDD. If constituents are concerned about the cost of postage to return the letters they’ve received to date and EDD has not reached out to them and offered another solution, we are happy to send them a pre-addressed and postage paid envelope they can use to return the letters. They need to provide us with their address and total number of envelopes, and we can mail out an envelope for them in the coming week. After mailing the initial packet of letters received to date back to EDD, we ask that if they receive any more letters from EDD not addressed to their name, to please write “Return to Sender” and either hand it to their mail carrier or drop it off at any post office. (We don’t want someone to be able to easily remove it from an unsecured outgoing mailbox.)”
EDD has been under scrutiny for months because of its unemployment processing backlog, busy phone lines and inability of those applying for unemployment benefits to receive them.
In a September 10 EDD news release, the agency noted: “While there are legitimate reasons for several workers using a single address, the EDD has shut down multiple claim situations, following key identified patterns.”
According to a September 14 AEI story (“Fraud ‘Likely Driving’ Massive Spike in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Rolls”), “New reports indicate the federal PUA program has been subject to massive fraud, especially in California where the PUA caseload has spiked by 3.9 million in just the most recent two weeks of federal data.”
The Department of Labor found that 77 percent of the national rise between August 8 and September 5 was from California.
Although Bloom’s office couldn’t comment, CTN asked why the EDD computer program couldn’t at least track when numerous envelopes were being sent to the same address.
The Palisades resident told CTN in an email on Wednesday, “Just saw the second TV news report (different channels) tonight of widespread EDD ID fraud statewide. This guy in the Valley is getting 40-50 letters a day! I’m a piker at 4-5 every other day.”