Public Notices and Press Releases

Woman Gets Two Years for Stealing COVID-19 Unemployment Benefits

Middlesex County Woman conspired to fraudulently obtain over $400,000 in pandemic relief funds.

Yanira Abreu, 42, of Keasbey, New Jersey, was sentenced to 24 months in prison for her role in a scheme to illegally obtain more than $400,000 in COVID-19 unemployment benefits, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced today. Abreu had previously pled guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud before U.S. District Judge Robert Kirsch, who imposed the sentence on May 9, 2024, in Trenton federal court.

From July 2020 through February 2021, Abreu, along with Christopher Valerio, 33, of Perth Amboy, New Jersey, and others, submitted false applications for unemployment benefits to the New York Department of Labor (NYDOL). Using stolen personal information, they obtained debit cards loaded with $444,728 in fraudulent funds. Valerio was sentenced to 30 months in prison on April 30, 2024, while another conspirator, Jose Tavares of New York, awaits trial.

In addition to her prison term, Abreu was sentenced to two years of supervised release and ordered to pay restitution and forfeiture totaling $444,728.

The investigation was conducted by Homeland Security Investigations Newark, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. The District of New Jersey COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Strike Force, part of a national initiative to combat pandemic relief fraud, played a crucial role in the case.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Fatime Meka Cano of the Economic Crimes Unit in Newark.

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