BOSTON — A former Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance employee was convicted Wednesday of conspiring to abuse her position to obtain pandemic unemployment assistance funds through fraudulent claims, including claims using identities she stole.
Tiffany Pacheco, aka Tiffany Tavery aka Tiffany Wolfe, 36, formerly of San Antonio, TX, Taunton, MA, and New Bedford, MA, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Indira Talwani to 42 months in jail and three years of probation. The defendant was also ordered to pay restitution of $199,555 and forfeiture of $17,181. On August 30, 2021, she pleaded guilty to six counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and one count of aggravated impersonation.
Tiffany Pacheco was hired by DUA in April 2020, shortly after her release from federal prison following an aggravated identity theft conviction. While employed by DUA, Tiffany Pacheco abused her position and access to the PUA claims system to submit fraudulent claims using stolen identity information and to submit fraudulent PUA claim information on behalf of herself and her husband, Arthur Pacheco, who was incarcerated in Texas until September. .4, 2020, and therefore ineligible for PUA funds. Tiffany Pacheco also tricked a friend into continuing her scheme after she was arrested, charged and detained.
“Ms. Pacheco breached the public trust by flagrantly abusing her position as a DUA employee to perpetrate a fraudulent scheme that stole personal information from innocent victims and stole money from working taxpayers hard,” said U.S. Attorney Rachael S. Rollins. “COVID relief is intended to help hard-working Americans who are most affected by the pandemic. To take from these funds is to take to those experiencing legitimate hardship and real need. Adding insult to injury, Ms. Pacheco’s work at DUA has presented an opportunity for a fresh start after her previous felony conviction. However, she has spoiled that opportunity by engaging in criminal behavior and refusing to change. Now she will be held accountable.
“Pacheco abused its privileged access to the personal information of Massachusetts residents applying for unemployment assistance. She stole identities and manipulated records in the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance computer system in an effort to enrich herself and her husband without regard to the lives of those whose identities were affected or funds that should have gone to those in legitimate need,” Matthew said. Millhollin, Special Agent in Charge of the New England Field Office of Homeland Security Investigations.
“Tiffany Pacheco, while employed with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Unemployment Assistance Department, engaged in a scheme to defraud the Unemployment Assistance Department by applying for and receiving assistance in cases of pandemic unemployment to which she was not entitled, using her own identity, her husband’s identity, and at least two stolen identities that she gained access to through DUA records. Pacheco abused her position at DUA taking action on claims, including her husband’s claim, to recover just under $200,000 in stolen benefits.The Office of Inspector General remains committed to protecting the integrity of the Unemployment Insurance program , especially against those who attempt to use their positions of trust to enrich themselves at the expense of taxpayers,” said Special Agent in Charge Jonathan Mellone, U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector general eur.
Tiffany Pacheco abused her employment-related access to DUA’s online AUP claims system to submit and make changes to five people’s claims. For two of these claims, she used personally identifying information obtained by virtue of her work at the DUA, while other claims used PII that she had obtained independently. Tiffany Pacheco also used its access to the PUA Claims System to make unauthorized eligibility determinations to induce payment of benefits and increase the amount of payments. The total loss associated with fraudulent claims that Tiffany Pacheco submitted using stolen PII is $159,922.
As of June 2020, PUA claims submitted for Tiffany Pacheco and her husband reflected 2019 income of $0 and no dependents. In July 2020, through her employment at DUA, Tiffany Pacheco gained access to the PUA computer system, and later amended the claim information for herself and Arthur Pacheco to increase the amount of PUA funds they would receive . For example, Tiffany Pacheco increased the amount of 2019 income for her and Arthur Pacheco to over $240,000 and increased the number of their dependents to seven. Tiffany Pacheco further used her PUA system access to verify the 2019 income increase on both claims without the required income verification documents.
In November 2020, Arthur Pacheco called the DUA and falsely denied having been incarcerated during the period leading up to September 2020, and that he was only incarcerated for about a month. Tiffany Pacheco also spoke with DUA and twisted the length of time Arthur Pacheco was incarcerated.
Additionally, Tiffany Pacheco asked Donna Wasson – a friend who resided in Texas – to use the DUA Customer Portal to access PUA claims for two of the fraudulent claims Tiffany Pacheco had submitted using stolen PII. Tiffany Pacheco further instructed Wasson to impersonate an applicant and directed Wasson to a Google Drive account containing the images of driver’s licenses and other documents under certain stolen identities. As a result, Wasson accessed unemployment claims under multiple stolen identities to fraudulently obtain benefits to which she was not entitled.
In September 2020, a search of the New Bedford apartment where Tiffany and Arthur Pacheco resided uncovered various identity fraud tools, including an ID laminator, 100 blank ID cards, 68 hologram overlays , 150 sheets of card lamination and 649 sheets of blank checks. Law enforcement also seized approximately $17,000 in cash and a notebook containing the personal identifying information of various people. Additionally, a driver’s license recovered during the search matched the name of a victim that Tiffany Pacheco had used to submit another fraudulent AUP claim. On September 23, 2020, DUA terminated the employment of Tiffany Pacheco.
On November 18, 2021, Arthur Pacheco was sentenced by Judge Talwani to one year in prison and three years of probation. Arthur Pacheco was also ordered to pay restitution and forfeiture in the amount of $7,491. On March 8, 2022, Wasson was sentenced by U.S. District Court Chief Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV to 18 months in prison and two years of supervised release. Wasson was also ordered to pay restitution and forfeiture in the amount of $5,437.
U.S. Attorney Rollins, HSI SAC Millhollin and DOL OIG SAC Mellone made the announcement Thursday. The New Bedford Police Department, the Massachusetts Parole Board and the Massachusetts Department of Unemployed Assistance, Program Integrity Unit provided valuable assistance in the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney William Abely, head of Rollins’ Criminal Division, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Dustin Chao, head of Rollins’ Public Corruption and Special Prosecutions Unit, prosecuted the case. The investigation was conducted by the Homeland Security Document and Benefits Fraud Task Force (DBFTF), a specialized field investigative group comprised of personnel from various local, state and federal agencies with expertise. in the detection, deterrence and disruption of organizations and individuals involved in various types of document, identity and benefit fraud schemes.
On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to mobilize Department of Justice resources in partnership with government agencies to scale up enforcement and prevention efforts. pandemic-related fraud. The task force strengthens efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies administering relief programs to prevent fraud, among other methods, by increasing and integrating coordination mechanisms existing ones, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their agendas, and sharing and leveraging information and knowledge gained from previous enforcement efforts. For more information about the Department’s response to the pandemic, please visit https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus.
Anyone with information about alleged attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) hotline at 866-720-5721 or via NCDF’s online complaint form at: https://www. .justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.