Four North Jersey men are facing charges after authorities say they schemed to steal $180,000 from the state by filing false claims for unemployment benefits, Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced in a release Tuesday.
According to Hoffman, Stephen Pirrone, 53, formerly of Old Tappan and Norwood and currently of Paramus, Wilfredo Sanchez, 37, of Newark, Andre Brown, 36, of Woodland Park, and Jose Flores, 38, of Newark, were involved in an unemployment scheme from November 2006 to March 2013.
Pirrone allegedly initiated the scheme, and then enlisted the others to help, Hoffman said. The four collected more than $180,000 in payments based on seven fraudulent unemployment insurance claims, Hoffman said. They allegedly submitted phony wage statements to the state in the name of two defunct businesses, a trucking company formerly operated by Pirrone called Culver Transportation, Inc., and a bankrupt trucking company from which Pirrone formerly rented office and terminal space, Hoffman said.
The scheme allegedly started because Pirrone owed Brown money, and developed the scheme as a way to pay the debt, Hoffman said.
The following charges were filed against the four defendants, Hoffman said: All four defendants are charged with second-degree conspiracy. Pirrone is charged with second-degree counts of theft by deception and money laundering. Sanchez, Brown and Flores are charged with third-degree counts of theft by deception and money laundering. Sanchez and Flores also are charged with second-degree identity theft.
“We have joined forces with the Department of Labor and are using their cutting-edge security upgrades to come down hard on con artists who steal unemployment benefits,” Hoffman said in the release.
“We will diligently guard these benefits, which are a financial lifeline for New Jersey workers who temporarily find themselves out of work.”
Pirrone, Sanchez and Flores were arrested Tuesday and are being held on $75,000 bail each, Hoffman said.
Brown was not arrested, but will be ordered to appear in court for arraignment at a later date, authorities said. All four are facing jail time and hefty fines if convicted, authorities said.