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Eight Brooklynites have been charged with conspiracy to commit access device fraud in connection with a scheme to obtain millions of dollars in unemployment insurance benefits funded by COVID-19 pandemic assistance programs, according to a Department of Justice release.
Six suspects — Bryan Abraham, 18, Angel Cabrera, 18, Seth Golding, 18, Gianni Stewart, 19, Carlos Vasquez, 20, and Andre Ruddock, 25 — were arrested Tuesday for arraignment. The other two suspects, Johan Santos, 19, and Armani Miller, 24, remain at large, the Department of Justice said.
“The defendants not only fraudulently obtained $2 million in pandemic-related unemployment benefits using information from third-party victims, they audaciously displayed the proceeds of their fraud [large amounts of stolen cash] on social media,” stated Acting United States Attorney Lesko. “This Office will not hesitate to bring the full weight of the law against defendants who would pocket public funds that are intended to alleviate the hardship of others.”
As alleged in the complaint, between June 2020 and April 2021, the defendants submitted fraudulent claims to the New York State Department of Labor for unemployment insurance benefits. They used the personal identifying information of third-party victims to fraudulently receive unemployment insurance benefits funded by COVID-19 pandemic assistance programs.
The defendants’ scheme allegedly resulted in approximately $2 million in unemployment benefits being distributed to the defendants and others. Four of the eight suspects (Cabrera, Golding, Stewart and Vazquez) also posted photos of themselves on social media in which they were holding and fanning out large sums of cash.
“There is never an excuse to knowingly commit fraud and steal from a system that was designed to help New Yorkers in a time of need,” Roberta Reardon, Commissione of the New York State Department of Labor, said in a statement. “However, it’s even more despicable when these thieves steal a lifeline from New Yorkers in the midst of a public health pandemic. We have no tolerance for criminals, and if you break the law, you will be held accountable. I commend our partners in the U.S. Attorney’s Office and all levels of law enforcement for their commitment to helping us fight Unemployment Insurance fraud.”