BOSTON (AP) — A former employee of the Massachusetts agency that oversees unemployment insurance benefits has been sentenced to 3 1/2 years behind bars for using her job to fraudulently apply for federal COVID-19 relief funds through stolen identities and manipulated records.
Tiffany Pacheco, 36, who had previously spent time behind bars on an identity theft conviction, was also ordered by a federal judge on Thursday to pay restitution of nearly $200,000.
Pacheco, who also goes by Tiffany Tavery and previously lived in New Bedford, was hired by the state Department of Unemployment Assistance in April 2020 shortly after her release from prison, federal authorities said.
While she worked at the agency, she submitted Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claims for five people, in two cases using stolen personal information obtained through her job, prosecutors said.
She also manipulated records pertaining to her own claims.
In June 2020, she submitted Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claims reflecting that she and her husband had an income of $0 in 2019 and no dependents. A month later, after obtaining access to the state agency’s computer system, she changed her 2019 income to $240,000 and their dependants to seven to increase their benefits, prosecutors said.
“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,” U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins said in a statement. “COVID-related assistance is intended to help hardworking American workers most affected by the pandemic. To take from these funds is to take from those experiencing legitimate hardship and genuine need.”
Pacheco pleaded guilty in August to wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft.
Her husband and a friend have previously been sentenced to prison for their roles in the scheme.