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Three Accused Of Stealing Unemployment Insurance Benefits In Westchester

Jeremias Lara Photo Credit: Westchester County District Attorney's Office
Pedro Santana Photo Credit: Westchester County District Attorney's Office
Ivan Vacacela Photo Credit: Westchester County District Attorney's Office

Three seasonal employees working in Westchester were busted for allegedly stealing thousands of dollars through unemployment insurance theft schemes despite being out of the country.

Mount Kisco resident Jeremias Lara, Pedro Santana and Ivan Vacacela, both of Yonkers, were arrested on Tuesday as part of an ongoing investigation into unemployment insurance benefits fraud, Westchester County District Attorney Anthony Scarpino, Jr., announced.

Each of the three is charged with filing false New York State unemployment claims in White Plains, thereby defrauding the NYS Department of Labor.

Lara, a landscaper for Luppino Landscaping and Masonry in Mount Kisco received $12,182 in unemployment benefits while he was living out of the country each year from December 2014 to March 2017.

Santana, a groundskeeper for the Apawamis Club in Rye, received $11,950, although he also lived outside the country each year from December 2013 through April 2016. Vacacela, an irrigation technician for Aqua Turf Irrigation Systems in Elmsford received $11,990 although he lived outside the country for several months between December 2013 and April 2016.

All three men were charged with one count of offering a false instrument for filing with intent to defraud the state. They were arraigned in White Plains City Court and released. They are scheduled to appear in court on Nov. 9.

“Unemployment benefits are a lifeline for those out of work in situations beyond their control, but, they are not free,” Scarpino stated. “Anyone seeking unemployment insurance must follow the rules.

"These defendants did not. They broke the law. Our teams of investigators and Assistant District Attorneys work closely with the New York State Department of Labor to bring to justice those who would steal funds from the state, and all of us, by taking money that does not belong to them.”

New York State Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon added, “New York State has a zero-tolerance policy for the theft of important safety net benefits. Let this case serve as a warning to those who would seek to defraud the unemployment insurance system: you will be brought to justice.”

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