A New Yorker was arrested for attempting to steal over $1.9 million through a COVID-19 unemployment benefits scheme. The suspect was accused of committing fraud and aggravated identity theft after authorities found incriminating evidence in an abandoned hotel room.
Yohauris Rodriguez Hernandez, 40, was arrested at an immigration detention center in Goshen. Hernandez was charged with stealing the identities of around a hundred people. Their names and Social Security numbers were used to obtain fraudulent benefits. Many of the victims lived in a three-block area of Queens.
Staff at a Yonkers hotel called the police when they found hundreds of letters containing state-issued unemployment debit cards in an empty room after Hernandez and an unidentified co-conspirator had checked out. The mail was from the New York State Department of Labor, according to court documents.
The pair tried to extend their stay an extra night but were told they would have to move to a different room as their room had been booked. They allegedly forgot to take the letters with them upon leaving the hotel room.
Prosecutors said Hernandez and the co-conspirator exchanged text messages about the scheme, photos and personal identifying information that was used to apply for the fraudulent benefits. Officers also found a notebook that contained a list of names, birthdates and Social Security numbers.
The pair allegedly ran the scheme from February through December 2020. They used the stolen identities to apply for around $1.9 million in fraudulent unemployment claims and received more than $500,000 in payments.
Hernandez was charged with aggravated identity theft, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit theft of government benefits. A conviction could result in more than 30 years in prison.
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