In July, a claim for unemployment benefits filed on behalf of Richard Derderian identified him as a self-employed barber and custom painter who had been without work since March because of the coronavirus.
The state Employment Development Department quickly approved his claim, and Derderian eventually received a total of $21,710 before investigators discovered he wasn’t an unemployed barber. Or a painter. In fact, he hadn’t been working at all when the pandemic hit.
Derderian, 40, was an inmate at Shafter’s Modified Community Correctional Facility, one of more than 20,000 inmates in 38 prison across the state who investigators say received payments in a massive fraud scheme to get illegal unemployment benefits.
A document filed in Kern County Superior Court details how Derderian allegedly conspired with a friend on the outside to file the claim. The friend, Melissa Godshall, is accused of listing her La Mesa address as the location of Derderian’s fictitious business, and identifying herself in the application as a workplace supervisor.