Former state unemployment insurance clerk Lusselenia Lopez was sentenced to prison today for stealing approximately $56,000 in unemployment benefits.

The 48 year old Woodbridge native was a clerk based out of the Elizabeth location. She used her access to the department’s computer system to fraudulently alter claims to provide benefits to family members who were not entitled to them, and in one case, to steal benefits from a stranger by redirecting his benefits to her own bank account.

The investigation broke down the stolen funds as follows:

Lopez stole more than $31,000 through two separate claims for unemployment insurance filed by one of her daughters. They filed one claim in May 2009 and the second in August 2011. In each instance, the daughter was deemed ineligible for benefits because she was terminated from her prior employment for cause. Lopez was able to go into the department of labor computer system to reverse the denial of benefits so that her daughter could receive the benefit payments. They were then deposited into bank accounts of the daughter and Lopez.

Lopez then stole $1,680 in unemployment benefits on a claim filed by her late husband. For four weeks after he passed away in August 2011, Lopez continued to receive benefits on his claim by certifying each week that her husband was able and available to work.

Lopez went on to assist a second daughter to receive more than $9,000 in unemployment benefits by underreported the daughter’s income in a manner that made her appear eligible for full benefits. This was even after the daughter obtained a new job which made her ineligible for the benefits.

Finally, the investigation revealed that Lopez stole nearly $14,000 by diverting benefits from a man whose claim had been temporarily suspended. In September 2013, Lopez went into the labor department computer system and reactivated the claim. She changed the address on the claim and directed that the payments be direct-deposited into her own bank account.

Lopez pleaded guilty on January 17th to second-degree conspiracy to commit official misconduct. She is to serve five years in state prison and is now permanently barred from public employment in New Jersey. Lopez as well as her two daughters who were receiving the stolen benefits, must pay full restitution to the state. Both daughters plead guilty in February to second-degree conspiracy to commit official misconduct were admitted into the Pretrial Intervention Program. If they successfully complete the program, their charges will be dismissed; if they do not, they will be subject to a state prison sentence.

Lopez was indicted last year in an investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice, the U.S. Department of Labor-Office of Inspector General, and the New Jersey Department of Labor & Workforce Development-Office of Internal Audit.

“As Lopez has learned, those who steal from government programs in New Jersey will face stern punishment, especially if they are public employees entrusted with administering them,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We’ll continue to work closely with our state and federal labor department partners to safeguard this important financial lifeline for workers.”

Attorney General Porrino and Director Honig noted that the Division of Criminal Justice has established a toll-free Corruption Tipline 1-866-TIPS-4CJ for the public to confidentially report corruption, financial crime and other illegal activities. The public also can log on to the Division’s web page at www.njdcj.org to report suspected wrongdoing confidentially.

 

 

 

1 COMMENT

  1. These are the same people putting their friends and family on the system, while taking it from those in need! NJSHARES is another state fund program to help everyone but yet there a few who choose to help no one but their own that don’t need nor qualify.

  2. I wonder who taught her how to do all that and how many other people might be doing the same thing? ?
    How many different areas she stole from, she wasn’t afraid to get caught at all