Four North New Jersey men have been indicted by a grand jury for conspiring to steal more than $180,000 in false unemployment claims.
Authorities say the scheme was developed by 53-year-old Stephen Pirrone, who recruited three other suspects: 37-year-old Wilfredo Sanchez, 38-year-old Jose Flores, and 36 year-old Andre Brown.
Forging wage statements using the name of Pirrone’s former employer, Culver Transportation – a now bankrupt trucking business – the scheme went on for six years and continued even after Pirrone was in federal prison for tax fraud. Some of the embezzled unemployment money was even wired to his commissary account, investigators said.
Elie Honig, director of the state Division of Criminal Justice, told NJ.com that the attorney general and the Department of Labor have been joining forces over the past two years targeting unemployment fraud.
“We have both the technology and the will to bring them to justice,” Honig said.
Pirrone, Sanchez and Flores have been arrested and are being held on $75,000 bail. Brown was not arrested but was ordered to appear in court she the arraignment is set.
If convicted, they face up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $150,000.