New Bedford Woman Gets Prison Time for COVID Fraud Scheme
BOSTON — A New Bedford woman and former employee of the state's Department of Unemployment Assistance will serve three and a half years in prison for misusing her position to get pandemic benefits through fraud and identity theft.
The U.S. Attorney's Office said 36-year-old Tiffany Pacheco, known as Tiffany Tavery, committed the crimes shortly after her release from federal prison on unrelated charges.
Pacheco pleaded guilty in August to six counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy, and one count of aggravated identity theft.
She was caught for the fraud scheme along with her husband, 47-year-old Arthur Pacheco, in January 2021. Arthur was sentenced to one year behind bars in November and ordered to pay nearly $7,500 in restitution.
Tiffany Pacheco was also ordered to pay nearly $200,000 in restitution and forfeit over $17,000, and will spend three years on supervised release following her prison term.
In April 2020, shortly after her release from prison for identity theft, Tiffany Pacheco was hired by the state unemployment agency.
She then used her position to submit fraudulent claims using stolen identity information and also submitted fraudulent pandemic assistance claims for herself and Arthur, who was incarcerated at the time.
The office said Pacheco also got a friend, Texas resident Donna Wasson, to continue the scheme after she was caught and charged.
Pacheco directed Wasson to a Google Drive account containing images of driver’s licenses and other documents from stolen identities.
Wasson was sentenced on March 8 to 18 months in prison and two years of supervised release and ordered to pay over $5,000 in restitution.
The total loss associated with Pacheco's fraudulent claims submitted using stolen personal identifying information is $159,922, according to the attorney's office.
A September 2020 search of the New Bedford apartment where Tiffany and Arthur Pacheco lived uncovered various identity fraud tools, including an ID laminator, 100 blank ID cards, 68 hologram overlays, 150 card lamination sheets and 649 blank check sheets.
Law enforcement also seized around $17,000 in cash and a notebook with the personal identifying information of various people.
Pacheco was fired from the department in September 2020, charged in January 2021, and pleaded guilty in August.
On Wednesday Pacheco was also ordered to pay $199,555 in restitution and forfeit $17,181.
“Ms. Pacheco violated the public’s trust by egregiously abusing her position as a DUA employee to perpetrate a fraud scheme that stole personal information from innocent victims and stole money from hardworking taxpayers,” said U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins.
"Adding insult to injury, Ms. Pacheco’s job at DUA presented an opportunity for new beginnings following her previous felony conviction," Rollins added. "However, she ruined that opportunity by engaging in criminal behavior and refusing to change. Now she will be held responsible.”
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