A former North Bergen man was sentenced to eight years in state prison after he and his wife were caught stealing nearly $318,000 in fraudulent unemployment and disability benefits, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
Jose Crespo, 52, of New Castle, Delaware – formerly of North Bergen and Fort Lee,– was sentenced to eight years in state prison, including three years of parole ineligibility, by Mercer County Superior Court Judge Peter E. Warshaw Jr, Grewal said in a statement.
He also was ordered to pay full restitution of $317,736. Crespo pleaded guilty on April 17, 2017 to a charge of second-degree computer theft, in a scheme where two co-defendants previously were sentenced.
Meanwhile, his wife, Marilyn Crespo, 50, pleaded guilty to a second-degree theft charge and was sentenced to the Drug Court Program. However, if she fails to meet the requirements of that program, the alternative sentence is five years in prison.
Furthermore, Jose Crespo’s friend Craig Mallone, 62, of Wilmington, Del., pleaded guilty to third-degree theft by deception and was sentenced to 364 days in jail and three years of probation.
“Prolific con artists like Crespo are a costly drain on the unemployment insurance trust fund, which is a vital safety net for hardworking New Jerseyans who lose their jobs through no fault of their own,” Grewal said.
“The New Jersey Department of Labor has enhanced its resources to detect this type of fraud, and we’ll continue to partner with them and the U.S. Department of Labor to ensure that these offenders face justice.”
According to authorities, Jose Crespo, with his wife’s assistance, engaged in two separate schemes to steal a total of $317,736 from the State of New Jersey between December 2012 and December 2015.
In the first scheme, Jose Crespo filed 19 fraudulent Unemployment Insurance (UI) claims, all of which listed the same two employers, which were shell companies set up in New Jersey that were connected to the Crespos, officials said. Of the 19 fraudulent UI claims, 11 used the identities of current or former inmates in the Georgia state prison system, and several others were filed in the names of members of the Crespo family.
A total of $110,642 allegedly was stolen through false UI claims. Mallone was charged in connection with a false UI claim filed in his name by Jose Crespo, through which Mallone received $12,825 in benefits.
In the second scheme, Jose Crespo allegedly filed 23 fraudulent Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) claims which involved seven different employers, all of which again were shell companies connected to the Crespos, including the two companies used for the UI claims.
Of the 23 TDI claims, 16 were filed in the names of current or former Georgia inmates, while others were filed in the names of members of the Crespo family.
A total of $207,094 allegedly was stolen through false TDI claims.
The investigation was conducted for the Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau by Deputy Attorney General Scarduzio, Detective Christine Sullivan and Analyst Bethany Schussler.
They also worked with the New Jersey Department of Labor & Workforce Development, as well as the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General.
This isn’t the first fraudulent money scheme the couple has admitted to this year.
In January, Jose Crespo was sentenced in January to three years in federal prison for a scheme in which he fraudulently collected over $1 million in tax refunds by falsely claiming tax credits for shell companies he created.
He was charged in an investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey and the IRS Criminal Investigation Newark Field Office. Marilyn Crespo pleaded guilty yesterday in federal court in connection with the same criminal scheme.