On July 27, 2023, Amy Peru (27 years old) was sentenced to state prison after pleading guilty to one count of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree (a Class C felony) for stealing more than $150,000 in unemployment insurance benefits during the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ms. Peru assumed the identity of several persons to apply for and fraudulently obtain unemployment benefits in their names.
The investigation was conducted by the New York State Offices of the Inspector General and the New York State Police Financial Crimes Unit. The investigation determined that Ms. Peru began her fraudulent scheme while managing her father’s rental properties. She convinced one tenant to allow her to help him apply for unemployment insurance benefits and in the process had access to his online unemployment account and his personal identifying information. Unbeknownst to the tenant, Ms. Peru directed the unemployment benefits into financial accounts that she controlled. She also used the personal identifying information of that tenant’s spouse and did the same thing. These victims were receiving food stamp benefits at the time that were cut-off due to Ms. Peru’s fraud, when the tenants became ineligible because of the supposed unemployment income they were receiving (when in fact it was being received by Ms. Peru). It took months for these victims to restore their benefits they needed to feed their family (which included several small children).
In addition, Ms. Peru duped other unsuspecting individuals into providing her with their personal identifying information under the guise of assisting them with their online applications. In several instances, after these unemployment claims were made, Ms. Peru took control of the online accounts with New York State that she had helped set up for these people, and then redirected funds into her own financial accounts. Ms. Peru’s fraudulent scheme victimized at least 7 individuals and netted her well over $150,000. The investigation determined that Ms. Peru used the stolen money to pay for designer jewelry and clothes and other frivolous expenses.
On July 27, 2023, County Court Judge Matthew J. Sypniewski sentenced Ms. Peru to state prison for a term of 1 to 3 years, and ordered her to pay more than $81,000 in restitution to the NYS Department of Labor. Prior to sentencing, Ms. Peru has already provided $80,000 in restitution the Department of Labor. In addition, Ms. Peru entered into a forfeiture agreement, forfeiting certain property seized as a result of the investigation.
District Attorney Carney stated, “It is appalling the lengths that some people went to in order to enrich themselves from a program meant to keep those who needed it afloat during the pandemic. All her elaborate scheming netted her was a felony conviction and a prison sentence. We hope that this result will deter others who may be considering similar thievery.” The District Attorney’s Office thanks the New York State Offices of the Inspector General, the New York State Police, the New York State Department of Labor, and the Schenectady County Department of Social Services for their assistance in investigating this case.
New York State Inspector General Lucy Lang said, “Taking advantage of the welfare system for personal gain compromises a system that is integral to the health and safety of the most vulnerable New Yorkers. My office will continue to work with our partners to root out and hold responsible anyone who would defraud vital state programs.” The Offices of the New York State Inspector General is grateful to the Schenectady District Attorney’s Office, the New York State Police, and the New York State Department of Labor for their partnership on this case. Inspector General Lang also extended her thanks to the members of her team that worked to bring Ms. Peru to justice, including Deputy Inspector General Jim Davis, Managing Investigator for Welfare Jason Fazio, Investigative Counsel Mark Jordan, Chief of Investigations Sherry Amarel, Deputy Chiefs of Investigations Carmen Frangella and Gary Waters, and Confidential Investigator Jeffrey Haber.
The case was prosecuted by ADA William M. Lemon, Bureau Chief of the Financial Crimes Unit. The defendant was represented by Adam Parisi, Esq.