New Bedford Pair Charged With Federal Unemployment Fraud
A married man and woman from New Bedford were indicted Thursday by a federal grand jury in Boston on fraud charges arising from their claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance funds.
Tiffany Pacheco, 35, and Arthur Pacheco, 47, were each indicted on one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Tiffany Pacheco also faces five counts of wire fraud and Arthur Pacheco two counts. The defendants until recently resided in New Bedford, according to a news release from the Office of U.S. Attorney Andrew E. Lelling. The two were arrested in San Antonio, Texas in December and have been detained ever since.
According to charging documents, Tiffany Pacheco, also known as Tiffany Tavery, was hired by the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) in April 2020, despite the fact that she had recently been released from federal prison following a conviction for aggravated identity theft. At the DUA, Tiffany allegedly misused her position to submit fraudulent PUA claim information on behalf of herself and her husband, Arthur.
Specifically, it is alleged that in June 2020, claims initially submitted for the couple reflected 2019 income of zero dollars and no dependents. After Tiffany obtained access to the PUA computer system in July of 2020, she allegedly changed that information. She allegedly increased the amount of the couple's 2019 income to more than $240,000 and claimed they had seven dependents. She also allegedly used the system to verify the information without supporting documents.
Prosecutors further allege that the PUA claim for Arthur was fraudulent because he was incarcerated in Texas until Sept. 4, 2020, and thus ineligible for PUA funds. In November, Arthur allegedly called DUA and falsely denied that he had been incarcerated during the relevant timeframe and claimed he was only incarcerated for about a month. Tiffany also allegedly misrepresented the period of time in which Arthur had been incarcerated.
A search of the pair's New Bedford apartment uncovered various tools of identity fraud, including an ID laminator, 100 blank ID cards, 68 hologram overlays, 150 card lamination sheets, and 649 sheets of blank checks, prosecutors say. Law enforcement also seized approximately $17,000 cash and a notebook that appeared to contain the personal identifying information of various individuals. On Sept. 23, 2020, DUA terminated Tiffany’s employment, Lelling's office said.
The charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud provide for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, up to three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
The investigation was conducted by Homeland Security’s Investigation’s Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force (DBFTF), a specialized field investigative group comprised of personnel from various local, state, and federal agencies with expertise in detecting, deterring, and disrupting organizations and individuals involved in various types of document, identity, and benefit fraud schemes.