MANHATTAN (CN) - One current and one former human resources official teamed up with 11 others to rob New York City public assistance programs of more than $2 million, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.
Cherrise Watson-Jackson, a 44-year-old supervisor for the Big Apple's Human Resources Administration, and Petronila Peralta, a 51-year-old former staffer, were both arrested Tuesday morning in Queens in connection with alleged schemes to defraud programs of public money.
The bustling public corruption unit of Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara unsealed charges against both women on Tuesday.
An employee of the agency since 1993, Watson-Jackson's most recent position called for her to oversee a team of employees deciding whether New Yorkers were eligible for public assistance programs.
Prosecutors say she abused that position, with the help of 11 other people, in two separate schemes that shorted the public fund of $1.5 million between early 2012 to December 2013.
Watson-Jackson filled electronic benefit transfer cards used in food stamp programs with city funds for co-conspirators Isaac Allen, Derrick Williams, Corey Brock, Gerard Stokes and Jaron Annunziata, according to a criminal complaint against them.
She also allegedly sent rental assistance checks to people posing as landlords, who are identified in the complaint as Maurice Cromwell, Kevin Williams, Beverly Franklin, Vernecka Petersen-Fowler and Annunziata.
Yesenia Depena, a teller at a check-cashing business, helped them cash more than 200 bogus checks, prosecutors say.
Peralta, who was a job opportunity specialist between 2005 and August 2014, allegedly handed out about $600,000 in so-called "supplemental issuance" funds, meant for New Yorkers who did not receive funds previously owed. She is charged separately in an 18-page complaint without any other co-conspirators.
Peralta's name appeared in a New York Post article earlier this year naming 140 New York City welfare workers forced out of work because of crime and misconduct.
If convicted, Watson-Jackson faces up to 25 years in prison, and Peralta faces a maximum 20-year sentence.