An Ocean County woman has been sentenced to seven years in prison for receiving more than $300,000 in illegal unemployment benefits.
Erica Rivera had pleaded guilty in September to second-degree theft by deception.
Attorney General Chris Porrino said the 35-year-old Beachwood resident admitted that between 2012 and 2015, she filed false online applications for unemployment benefits using names of people who allegedly had worked for her tax preparation business, Compassionate Financial Services.
In reality, Rivera used personal identifying information of unwitting relatives, friends and her former clients to file the bogus claims.
She posed as the claimants when requesting the benefits online weekly, and surveillance cameras caught her using unemployment benefit debit cards to withdraw funds at ATM locations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Washington, D.C..
The attorney general’s office estimates Rivera collected 521 benefit payments totaling more than $345,000. She will be required to pay restitution in that amount. Rivera has paid $31,000 to date.
“Rivera was systematic in her scheme to steal unemployment benefits from the state, but she learned that the state is even more systematic in rooting out fraud,” Porrino said. “We’ll continue to work with the Department of Labor to put swindlers like Rivera in prison and protect this vital safety net for New Jersey’s unemployed.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.