Hyde Park man charged with COVID-Relief and federal assistance benefits fraud | USAO-MA

BOSTON — A Hyde Park man has been indicted by a federal grand jury for his alleged use of a stolen identity to fraudulently obtain pandemic relief funds and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, formerly known as food stamps.

Fernando Mateo Valenzuela, 68, was charged with three counts of mail fraud, two counts of aggravated identity theft and two counts of misrepresenting a social security number. Valenzuela had previously been charged by criminal complaint on June 17, 2022. He has remained in custody since his arrest on June 21, 2022.

According to the indictment, Valenzuela, a citizen of the Dominican Republic, used the identity of a U.S. citizen to apply for and receive $29,051 in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits, available under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. It is further alleged that Valenzuela also used the identity to apply for and receive $7,230 in SNAP benefits.

The mail fraud charges each carry a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of probation and a fine of up to $250,000. The aggravated identity theft charges each carry a mandatory minimum sentence of two years in prison, one year of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000. The charges of misrepresenting a social security number each carry a sentence of up to five years in prison, up to three years of probation and a fine of up to $250,000. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based on US sentencing guidelines and the laws that govern sentencing in a criminal case.

United States Attorney Rachael S. Rollins; Bethanne M. Dinkins, Special Agent in Charge, United States Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General, Bureau of Investigation, Northeast Region; Matthew B. Millhollin, Special Agent for Homeland Security Investigations in Boston; Jonathan Mellone, Special Agent in Charge of the Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, Investigations of Racketeering and Labor Fraud; Phillip M. Coyne, Special Agent in Charge, US Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General; Ketty Larco-Ward, postal inspector in charge of the United States Postal Inspection Service, Boston Division; and Colonel Christopher Mason, Superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police, made the announcement. Assistant U.S. Attorney David Tobin of Rollins’ Major Crimes Unit is prosecuting the case.

The investigation was conducted by Homeland Security Investigation’s Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force (DBFTF), a specialized investigative group comprised of personnel from various state, local and federal agencies with expertise in the detection, deterrence and disruption of organizations and individuals involved in various types of document, identity and benefit fraud schemes.

On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to mobilize Department of Justice resources in partnership with government agencies to scale up enforcement and prevention efforts. pandemic-related fraud. The task force strengthens efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies administering relief programs to prevent fraud, among other methods, by increasing and integrating coordination mechanisms existing ones, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their agendas, and sharing and leveraging information and knowledge gained from previous enforcement efforts. For more information about the Department’s response to the pandemic, please visit https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus.

Anyone with information about alleged attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) hotline at 866-720-5721 or via NCDF’s online complaint form at: https://www. .justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.

The details contained in the indictment are allegations. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by a court.

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