A city human resources worker has been arrested for allegedly pocketing over $500,000 meant for homeless and low-income New Yorkers. The employee in question, Rafael Heras, is charged with stealing public assistance funds through fraudulent rent checks issued to bogus landlords.
The arrest came after discrepancies were discovered by the City Human Resources Administration (HRA), the sector that Heras worked for. The complaint was then examined by the New York City Department of Investigation, resulting in Heras's arrest this week.
Heras spent the last twenty years working as an Associate Job Opportunity Specialist for the HRA, a position that required him to issue rent checks to landlords on behalf of qualifying individuals, including homeless clients who were receiving public assistance funds for rent. Instead, Heras allegedly organized a scam in which money was issued to phony landlords who then gave the majority of the money back to Heras.
One of those alleged landlords, Carlos Felix, was also arrested on charges that he played a role in stealing over $100,000 of the total $500,000. The DOI investigation found that the scam had been going on between April 2006 and August 2009.
"These criminal allegations are an insult to all the hard-working staff of HRA who are doing their best to fight poverty and help low-income New Yorkers," HRA Commissioner Steve Banks said in a statement.
Heras and Felix were both charged on Wednesday with varying counts of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree and Welfare Fraud in the Second degree. If convicted, these charges can qualify as class C or D felonies, and come a prison sentence of up to 15 years.