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Former City Official Accused of Stealing $190,000 in Government Benefits

By Jill Colvin | February 14, 2013 6:50pm
 The Foley Square federal courthouse in Manhattan.
The Foley Square federal courthouse in Manhattan.
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DNAinfo/Shayna Jacobs

NEW YORK CITY — A former acting deputy director at the city's Human Resources Administration was arraigned Thursday on charges that she swindled more than $190,000 in government benefits, officials said.

Sandra Garcia, 56, is accused of setting up a fake benefits account, through which she allegedly pocketed about $60,641 in food stamps and $133,182 in cash, Medicaid premium payments and emergency household and heating grants between 1996 and 2009, when she retired from the agency, according to a federal criminal complaint.

The HRA is the city agency in charge of distributing government benefits like food stamps, home care for seniors, public health insurance and childcare.

According to officials, Garcia set up the account using her mother's first name and the real names and social security numbers of nine children, including three who appear to be related to her and lived in Puerto Rico. At least one of the nine children, officials said, was denied legitimate benefits because of Garcia's alleged theft.

"This defendant deceived the City and the clients she worked for by using her access to sensitive personal information to steal taxpayer funds, fraud that prevented at least one child from receiving public assistance benefits, according to the criminal complaint," Department of Investigation Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn said in a statement.

Garcia retired in 2009 as an acting deputy director of an HRA center in Long Island City, which serves homeless clients, according to the DOI.

She was arrested on Jan. 31 and arraigned Thursday, and faces charges of theft of government funds and theft concerning programs receiving federal funds — both punishable by up to 10 years in prison — as well as aggravated identity theft.

The HRA did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Garcia could not be reached.