Mom, daughter scam busted in Rock: Feds

By Philip Newman

The arrests were announced by Rose Gill Hearn, commissioner of the New York City Department of Investigation and Edward Ryan, the Social Security Administration's regional inspector general.Juana Lopez, 63, of Inwood, L.I., was charged with grand larceny, possession of a forged instrument, identify theft, offering a false instrument for filing, fourth-degree scheme to defraud and conspiracy, the two officials said.Conviction could bring up to 15 years in prison.Tomasina Lopez, 41, of Rockaway Beach, was charged with grand larceny, falsifying of business records, offering a false instrument for filing and degree conspiracy, Hearn and Ryan said. If found guilty, she could face up to seven years in prison.The Queens district attorney's office said Juana Lopez was being held on $100,000 bail, which had not been posted as of Tuesday. Her daughter, Tomasina, was released on her own recognizance.The Housing Authority and Social Security officials said the mother had been a tenant of a two-bedroom apartment at Oceanbay/Edgemere Houses in Far Rockaway since at least 1984. She had received $75,272.03 in Supplemental Security Income benefits since 1989, they said.Authorities said Juana Lopez reported the benefits, currently $587 per month, as her only source of income to the New York City Housing Authority and as a result paid a low rent of $258 per month.Department of Investigation officials said, however, that she used a bogus Social Security number while working at Madelaine Chocolate Novelties in Rockaway Beach since 1984. The investigators said Lopez never reported the job to the Housing Authority or Social Security. As a result, she allegedly defrauded the Housing Authority of $69,695 in rent and defrauded the Social Security Administration of $75,272 in benefits, the DOI said.Investigators said Lopez bought a house on July 25, 2003 for $315,000 at 329 Beach 86th St. in Rockaway Beach, then leased the home to her daughter, who had lived there since 1999 as a tenant under Section 8, a federally funded housing voucher. In order to circumvent New York City Housing Authority regulations, which prohibit the payment of rent subsidies to landlords who are close relatives of tenants, the mother filed a letter with the Housing Authority falsely stating she was not related to her tenant/daughter, the investigators said.Authorities said Juana Lopez gave the Housing Authority the same bogus Social Security number she used at her place of employment rather than her actual Social Security number. They said this resulted in her defrauding the Housing Authority of $9,370 in Section 8 rent subsidies.Tomasina Lopez, an employee of the Head Start Program in Far Rockaway, concealed from the Housing Authority the fact that her husband, Darren Baker, lived with her from May 1999 until February 2005, investigators said. The federal and city officials said she also failed to report the income he earned as director of security at the Tribeca Film Center, As a result, the housing authority paid subsidies ranging from $381 to $637 to Tomasina Lopez for rent, the officials said.Investigators said that if Tomasina Lopez had reported properly her husband's presence in her home and his income, she would have been ineligible for the $37,425 in Section 8 subsidies the Housing Authority paid on her behalf from May 1999 until February 2005.Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said “New York City's social service safety net includes subsidized public housing for families truly in need. The members of the family charged as defendants in this case used deceit and fraud to feign a need for rent support and now will be prosecuted and held accountable for ripping off the system for tens of thousands of dollars.”Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 136.

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