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Former city worker writes $600K in fraudulent benefit checks out of Long Island City office

Jan. 4, 2017 Staff Report

A former employee for the city’s Human Resources Administration pleaded guilty yesterday to defrauding a public assistance program out of $600,000 and, separately, trafficking large amounts of cocaine.

Petronila Peralta of the Bronx stole the public funds that were meant to help those in need while working at HRA’s Long Island City office on Northern Boulevard. She was fired in 2014.

Around the time of her termination, she got involved in trafficking cocaine. She admitted yesterday to trafficking more than 50 kilograms of cocaine intended for sale.

“This [public] money was intended to aid the neediest New Yorkers, including children, by helping to defray the costs of basic nutrition and housing,” said U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara.

Peralta worked at the HRA between 2005 and 2014, most recently as a job opportunity specialist. According to the complaint, she issued more than 800 checks between 2009 and 2011 to individuals who were not entitled to public assistance, and were actually her co-conspirators.

In addition to issuing the fraudulent funds, she used a former HRA employee’s computer login information to record the transmissions rather than her own.

Between 2013 and 2015, Peralta helped smuggle large amounts of cocaine through the mail for redistribution.

Peralta pleaded guilty yesterday to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which carries a statutory maximum of 20 years in prison, and one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess cocaine, which carries a statutory maximum of 20 years in prison.

She has not yet been sentenced.

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