NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WWLP) – A married couple was arrested on Thursday night in San Antonio, Texas on federal fraud charges related to the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) funds, according to Attorney Andrew E. Lelling.
The couple had previously served jail time and were until recently living in New Bedford, Mass.
Tiffany Pacheco, 35, and Arthur Pacheco, 47 were charged by criminal complaint with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Tiffany Pacheco was also charged with one count of wire fraud.
Tiffany was hired by the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) in April 2020, shortly after her release from federal prison following a conviction for aggravated identity theft.
Tiffany allegedly misused her position to submit fraudulent PUA claim information on behalf of herself and her husband, Arthur, who was incarcerated in Texas and was ineligible for PUA funds.
Specifically, it is alleged that in June 2020, PUA claims submitted for Tiffany and her husband reflected a 2019 income of $0 and no dependents. In July 2020, Tiffany obtained access to the PUA computer system and later changed claim information for herself and Arthur so as to increase the amount of PUA funds they would receive.
Tiffany allegedly increased the amount of 2019 income for her and Arthur to more than $240,000 and increased the number of their dependents to seven. In November 2020, Arthur called DUA and falsely denied that he had been incarcerated during the timeframe leading up to September 2020.
A search warrant at their New Bedford apartment found 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.
Law enforcement also found approximately $17,000 cash and a notebook that appeared to contain the personal identifying information of various individuals.
The married couple will make an appearance in the Western District of Texas on Friday.
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.
The investigation was conducted by Homeland Security’s Investigation’s Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force (DBFTF).
United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling and among other officials made the announcement. The New Bedford Police Department and other official departments are prosecuting the case.