A former Department of Unemployment Assistance employee was sentenced Wednesday in US District Court in Boston to 42 months in federal prison for misusing her position to illegally obtain nearly $160,000 in pandemic unemployment assistance, the US Attorney’s office for Massachusetts said.
Tiffany Pacheco, 36, a former New Bedford resident, pleaded guilty in August to six counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and one count of aggravated identity theft, US Attorney Rachael Rollins’s office said in a statement Thursday.
“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,” Rollins said in the statement.
An attorney for Tiffany Pacheco did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday night.
Tiffany Pacheco and her husband, Arthur Pacheco, were arrested in San Antonio, Texas, in December 2020, the Globe reported.
Tiffany Pacheco was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $199,555 and forfeiture of $17,181, and she will undergo three years of supervised release, the statement said.
Tiffany Pacheco was hired by the department in April 2020 shortly after her release from federal prison for an aggravated identity theft conviction, prosecutors said. While employed by the department, she used stolen identity information to submit fraudulent claim information for herself and her husband, who was in federal prison until September 2020 and thus ineligible for unemployment insurance, the statement said. After her arrest, Tiffany Pacheco “induced” a friend to continue her scheme, according to prosecutors.
Tiffany Pacheco used the department’s system to submit and make changes to claims for five people, according to the statement. Two of the claims were made using personal identifying information Tiffany Pacheco obtained through her position with the department, while others used identifying information she obtained independently, the statement said.
She also allegedly used the department’s system to make unauthorized eligibility determinations to start the payment of benefits and increase the amount of payments.
The total loss associated with claims Tiffany Pacheco made using stolen identify information came to $159,922, the statement said.
In June 2020, pandemic unemployment assistance claims submitted for Tiffany Pacheco and Arthur Pacheco reported an income of $0 in 2019 and no dependents, according to prosecutors. During the course of her employment with the department, Tiffany Pacheco used the computer system to change claim information for herself and her husband to inflate the amount of money they would receive, the statement said.
In September 2020, a search of the Pachecos’ New Bedford apartment uncovered a variety of tools used for identity fraud, including an ID laminator, 100 blank ID cards, 68 hologram overlays, 150 card lamination sheets, and 649 sheets of blank checks, according to the statement. Officials also seized approximately $17,000 in cash and a notebook that contained the personal identifying information of various people.
Tiffany Pacheco was fired by the department the same month.
In November 2021, Arthur Pacheco was sentenced to one year in prison and three years of supervised release for his role in the scheme. Arthur Pacheco was also ordered to pay $7,491 in restitution and forfeiture, the statement said.
Last month, Tiffany Pacheco’s friend, Donna Wasson, who lived in Texas at the time of the scam, was sentenced to 18 months in prison and two years of supervised release for accessing unemployment claims under stolen identities to obtain benefits she was not entitled to, the statement said.