Fall River Man Charged With Stealing Unemployment Benefits
BOSTON – Six Massachusetts residents have been charged in federal court with using stolen identities to obtain official IDs and governments benefits, including a Fall River man.
Antonio De Carvalho Vicente, 59, a Brazilian national illegally residing in Fall River, allegedly submitted an application for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits using another person’s name and Social Security number, according to a media release from the office of U.S. Attorney Andrew E. Lelling.
De Carvalho Vicente allegedly received weekly payments of $600 under the PUA program, although the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance later ceased payments after flagging a suspected identity issue, Lelling's office said. The release did not say how much money the man allegedly collected.
Last week in Boston, De Carvalho Vicente was charged with theft of government funds. The charge provides for up to 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000.
Five other defendants, including people from Lawrence, Roxbury, and Roslindale, allegedly used Social Security numbers and other identifiers to obtain, for example, Massachusetts driver's licenses, Mass Health benefits, and unemployment assistance under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, Lelling's office said.
“Identity fraud takes a tremendous toll on its victims,” Lelling said in a statement. “Individuals whose identities have been misused can face difficulties obtaining health care benefits, Social Security benefits or unemployment benefits, and are often left dealing with collateral consequences such as tax liability, bad credit and outstanding arrest warrants in their names. We will continue to hold accountable those engaged in identity fraud.”
Michael Shea, Acting Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Boston, issued his own statement:
“These arrests mark an important landmark in the fight to ensure that benefits owed to American citizens go to whom they belong and not to those illegally present in our country,” said Shea. “This is an important enforcement metric reached in the fight against benefit theft crimes, which are especially egregious during today’s these times of serious economic and public health concerns."
Shea extolled the "tireless, dedicated team work of those partners who make up the Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force" and praised Lelling, the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts, "whose unprecedented commitment to prosecuting these crimes has never wavered.”
Phillip M. Coyne, Special Agent in Charge at the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services regional office in Boston, took the opportunity to chime in:
“The Medicaid program is a partnership between the federal government and the states to provide healthcare to some of the most vulnerable members of society,” said Coyne. “Medical identity theft jeopardizes the safety of its victims while disregarding the taxpayers who ultimately bear the cost. We will continue to root out imposters whose actions threaten the integrity of our healthcare system.”
Since July 2018, 50 people have been charged in connection with document, identity and benefit fraud through investigations by Homeland Security's document and benefit fraud task force, a "specialized investigative group comprising personnel from various state, local and federal agencies with expertise in detecting, deterring and disrupting organizations and individuals involved in various types of document, identity and benefit fraud schemes."
The task force investigates people who allegedly obtained stolen identities of U.S. citizens living in Puerto Rico to fraudulently obtain documents and public benefits, Lelling's office said.
Lelling acknowledged a host of partners in the investigations, including police departments in Fall River and Dartmouth.