Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Cheryl Garcia, Acting Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Office of the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations (“USDOL-OIG”), and Peter M. Rivera, Commissioner of the New York State Department of Labor (“NYDOL”), announced today that MAGDALENA VILLALOBOS pled guilty today in Manhattan federal court to orchestrating a scheme in which she facilitated the filing of fraudulent claims for millions of dollars in unemployment insurance benefits provided by states across the country. VILLALOBOS was charged in October 2013, and pled guilty today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Debra C. Freeman.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “Magdalena Villalobos facilitated an unemployment benefit scheme that injected fraud into at least 26 states, inflicted millions of dollars in losses, and did a disservice to the qualified claimants across the country who actually needed the funds. I commend and thank our federal and state law enforcement partners for their work on this case.”
USDOL-OIG Acting Special Agent-in-Charge Cheryl Garcia said: “For several years, Villalobos assisted individuals in obtaining unemployment insurance benefits even though they were ineligible because they resided outside the United States. Villalobos’s submission of fraudulent claims siphoned funds intended for those who are qualified and eligible to receive the benefits. This office will continue to work with United States Attorney’s Office and our state partners to investigate fraud against the Department of Labor’s Unemployment Insurance Program.”
New York State Labor Commissioner Peter M. Rivera said: “When individuals defraud the system, they steal from all of us. They steal from law-abiding employers, from workers and their families, and from all of the taxpayers across New York State. I commend our staff members who work hard every day to prevent and detect fraud and catch the criminals who try to get away with it.”
According to the Complaint, the Indictment, and other public documents filed in Manhattan federal court:
From at least July 2006 through her arrest in 2013, VILLALOBOS, a resident of Texas and owner of a purported notary business, accepted payments from fraudulent unemployment benefit claimants in return for placing telephone calls to at least 26 different States in order to certify falsely that those fraudulent claimants were entitled to such benefits. Certain of these claimants would reside outside of the United States while receiving unemployment benefits. Through this scheme, VILLALOBOS made thousands of calls on behalf of fraudulent claimants and inflicted millions of dollars in losses to unemployment benefit funds across the United States.
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VILLALOBOS, 59, of San Juan, Texas, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to steal unemployment insurance benefits. She faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison. The maximum potential sentence in this case is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.
Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding investigative work of both USDOL-OIG and NYDOL. He also thanked the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Postal Service for their assistance in the Texas investigation. He added that the investigation is continuing.
The prosecution of this case is being overseen by the Office’s General Crimes Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Andrew C. Adams and Rebecca G. Mermelstein are in charge of the prosecution.