A 24-year-old Bronx woman who formerly lived in Mount Vernon was sentenced to 15 weekends of incarceration and four-and-a-half years of probation for fraudulently collecting $12,150 in unemployment benefits, according to state Labor Commissioner Peter Rivera and Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore.
Chiara Hudson, a tax preparer and owner of Arlanna’s Accounting Services, prepared tax returns out of her former home/office in Mount Vernon. She is required to pay back the full amount to the state Labor Department and $5,600 to the Tax Department.
In November 2011, Labor Department investigators found that Hudson had used 16 different identities to collect Unemployment Insurance benefits. She submitted a fraudulent claim under her own name that said she had worked for a health-care company in Westchester County, officials said.
The state Department of Taxation and Finance said Hudson filed fraudulent returns that entitled more than 100 of her clients to illegally overstated refunds totaling more than $100,000. She also stole the identities of additional taxpayers and then used that information to submit false tax returns and have the refunds issued directly to her, the agency said.
Hudson pleaded guilty to one county of third-degree larceny and one count of fourth-degree criminal tax fraud. Her prison sentence starts Friday evening.
“Criminals who fraudulently collect unemployment benefits aren’t just stealing from the State, they’re stealing from those who lost their job and still have to keep a roof over their head and support their families,” Rivera said in a statement. “Unemployment Insurance fraud convictions send a message to anyone trying to cheat the system that you face a jail sentence if you steal from the State of New York.”
Employers across the state contribute to New York’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund. In 2012, the state paid out nearly $7.1 billion in benefits to 1.13 million people.
“This defendant, in filing false applications for Unemployment Insurance benefits and false tax returns for acquaintances and customers, further cost the State’s taxpayers in having to uncover and stop the ongoing frauds as well as ensure that the stolen money will be repaid, all at a time of tight budgets and resources,” DiFiore said.
The Labor Department recovered nearly $79 million in fraudulent unemployment payments and referred more than 2,400 to local district attorneys and law enforcement agencies. So far this year, more than $18 million in restitution has been paid. Anyone with information about unemployment fraud should call the agency’s fraud hotline at 888-598-2077.