ORLANDO, Fla. – A former Department of Economic Opportunity employee and her husband were arrested in an alleged organized scheme to defraud and criminal use of personal identification, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said.
Investigators believe Sharon Echeverri, 26, and her husband, Alberto Echeverri, 27, defrauded DEO re-employment assistance accounts by reactivating dormant accounts, and changing the PIN and bank account information so they would receive the funds, according to the FDLE.
The two then filed hundreds of fraudulent claims for re-employment assistance and forwarded the funds to 22 identified bank accounts under their control, FDLE said.
The investigation began in February after the Department of Economic Opportunity's Fraud Initiative Rules Rating Engine Unit identified a pattern of suspicious re-employment assistance claims being deposited into numerous bank accounts under Sharon and Alberto Echeverri's control, according to FDLE.
"Public benefits fraud is at crisis levels, and DEO has become a national leader in preventing and detecting this crime," DEO Executive Director Jesse Panuccio said. "Most often, this fraud is committed through the use of stolen identities obtained by criminals outside of DEO’s system, but in this case, a DEO employee was part of the criminal conspiracy. Our cyber fraud detection unit discovered this crime, and the employee now faces felony prosecution. DEO is committed to fighting this crime wherever it occurs."
FDLE said losses to the state of Florida totaled $189,175.
Sharon and Alberto Echeverri were booked into Orange County Jail on $50,000 bond each, FDLE said. Attorney General Pam Bondi's Office of Statewide Prosecution will prosecute the case.
FDLE said the investigation is ongoing and there could be additional arrests.