WHITE PLAINS, NY — Three men were arrested and arraigned for filing false New York State unemployment claims in White Plains, thereby defrauding the NYS Department of Labor (DOL) and the people of New York State out of thousands of dollars in payments. The DOL initiated the investigations, enlisted Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in New York and referred the cases to the District Attorney’s Office for this joint investigation.
The three defendants, Jeremias Lara, 53, Pedro Santana, 57, and Ivan Vacacela, 38, were arrested early Tuesday by investigators from the DA’s Office and HSI. Each man was charged with one count of Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree, a class E felony, with intent to defraud the state. The men are seasonal laborers who arranged to receive benefits while spending much of their off-work “winter” season out of the country. HSI was able to confirm their travels.
They were arraigned in White Plains City Court because the fraud allegedly was committed at the NYS Unemployment Career Center on Bloomingdale Road in White Plains. They were released on their own recognizance and their next court appearance is scheduled for Nov. 9, 2018.
Specifically, the felony complaints allege the following:
Jeremias Lara, a landscaper for Luppino Landscaping and Masonry based in Mount Kisco, received unemployment insurance benefits of approximately $12,182. His certifications of unemployment were false because he concealed that he was actually living outside the U.S. during periods each year from December 2014 to March 2017.
Pedro Santana, a groundskeeper for the Apawamis Club in Rye, received unemployment insurance benefits of approximately $11,950. His certifications of unemployment were false because he concealed that he was actually living outside the U.S. during periods each year from November 2014 to March 2016.
Ivan Vacacela, irrigation technician for Aqua Turf Irrigation Systems in Elmsford, received unemployment insurance benefits of approximately $11,990. His certifications of unemployment were false because he concealed that he was actually living outside the U.S. during periods each year from December 2013 April 2016.
DA Scarpino said, “Unemployment benefits are a lifeline for those out of work in situations beyond their control, but, they are not free. Anyone seeking unemployment insurance must follow the rules. These defendants did not. They broke the law. Our teams of investigators and Assistant District Attorneys work closely with the New York State Department of Labor to bring to justice those who would steal funds from the state, and all of us, by taking money that does not belong to them. Our colleagues at Homeland Security Investigations in New York are important partners in confirming these defendants were not in the United States and therefore taking benefits they did not deserve.”
NYS Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon said, “Under Governor Cuomo, New York State has a zero-tolerance policy for the theft of important safety net benefits. I thank Westchester County District Attorney Anthony A. Scarpino, Jr. for working with us to bring these perpetrators to justice. I also applaud the dedicated Department of Labor staff that detected this fraud. Let this case serve as a warning to those who would seek to defraud the UI system: you will be brought to justice.”
“These individuals are alleged to have defrauded NY State out of thousands of dollars in unemployment benefits,” said Edward V. Owens, Deputy Special Agent In Charge of HSI New York. “HSI will continue to work with the Westchester County DA and its law enforcement partners to investigate these crimes and bring the perpetrators to justice.”
The cases are being prosecuted by the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office Investigations Division Economic Crimes Bureau.