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  3. Two Co-Conspirators Sentenced for Stealing COVID-19 Unemployment Benefits Following HSI Investigation

Two Co-Conspirators Sentenced for Stealing COVID-19 Unemployment Benefits Following HSI Newark, Federal Partner Investigation

Release Date: May 21, 2024

NEWARK, N.J. — Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Newark, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General for the Northeast Region and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in Newark led an investigation that resulted in prison sentences for two people.

Yanira Abreu, 42, of Keasbey, was sentenced on May 13 to 24 months in prison for conspiring to illegally obtain over $400,000 in COVID-19 unemployment benefits in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey in Newark. Abreu’s co-conspirator, Christopher Valerio, 33, of Perth Amboy, was sentenced on April 30 to 30 months in prison by the same federal court. Abreu and Valerio each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

A third conspirator, Jose Tavares of New York, is charged by indictment and his case remains pending.

“These defendants will pay the price for fraudulently siphoning emergency funds from our government that were intended to help qualified American families with economic assistance in the wake of COVID-19,” said HSI Newark acting Special Agent in Charge William S. Walker. “HSI continues to work side-by-side with our federal law enforcement partners to bring fraudsters to justice and see that they are prosecuted for their crimes.”

According to investigation, from July 2020 through February 2021, Abreu, Valerio, and others submitted false and fraudulent applications for unemployment insurance benefits to the New York Department of Labor through fictitious online profiles that they created using personally identifiable information, including names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers of other individuals without their consent. Once the New York Department of Labor processed and approved the fraudulent applications, Abreu and her conspirators obtained debit cards with illegally obtained funds totaling $444,728, which they used for personal gain.

In addition to the prison term, the judge sentenced Abreu and Valerio to two years of supervised release and ordered restitution and forfeiture, each for the amount of $444,728.

The charges and allegations against Tavares are merely accusations, and Taveras is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Follow us on X, formerly known as Twitter, at @HSINewark to learn more about HSI’s global missions and operations.

Last Updated: 05/22/2024
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