According to a federal criminal complaint, eight Brooklynites reaped $2 million in Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Virus (COVID-19) relief funds by filing hundreds of false unemployment claims in other people’s names.
Six suspects were arrested Tuesday, May 18, and arraigned on a fraud charge: Bryan Abraham 18, Angel Cabrera 18, Seth Golding 18, Gianni Stewart 19, Carlos Vasquez 20, and Andre Ruddock 25.
Two others, Johan Santos 19 and Armani Miller, 24 are still on the loose, the New York Post reported.
In New York State, there are two main ways to apply for unemployment insurance (UI)—via the New York State Department of Labor (NYDOL) website—or via the NYDOL call center.
“To make a claim, the claimant was required to provide certain information, including the claimant’s name, date of birth, Social Security number and employment information. If the claim was accepted, the claimant was also required to establish, on a weekly basis, his or her continued eligibility for UI benefits. The claimant would complete this recertification by answering a series of questions, either online or by telephone,” as written in the complaint.
“The NYDOL, through KeyBank National Association (“KeyBank”), could issue a debit card on which UI benefits could be preloaded and/or credited on an ongoing basis.”
The complaint suggested that these men have taken advantage of the pandemic assistance program to “fraudulently filed UI claims using the personal identifying information of third party victims” to receive the UI funds.
The method by which the group allegedly used to steal the victims’ details is unknown.
According to the feds, the scams started in June 2020 and continued until last month.
After pouring the ill-gotten money into their bank accounts, they withdrew the money from branches in Brooklyn and Queens.
They were found with more than 100 Main Bank debit cards in other people’s names, which they used to make massive withdrawals from Capital One ATMs in Flatlands and different locations in eastern Queens.
Surveillance video caught some of them making withdrawals from bank ATMs.
“In total, the scheme resulted in an actual loss of approximately $2 million in UI benefits distributed to the defendants and others, and an intended loss of approximately $5 million in UI benefits,” the complaint states.
Court records also showed that four of the suspected thieves boasted about their wealth on social media, sharing photos of themselves with large sums of money.
“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,” said state Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon.
“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,” he added.