Accountant from Rio Arriba County Pleads Guilty to Federal Conspiracy, Mail Fraud and Identity Theft Charges
ALBUQUERQUE – Jasonn Gonzales, 41, an accountant from Velarde, N.M., pleaded guilty this morning to conspiracy, mail fraud and aggravated identity theft charges arising out of a scheme to defraud the federal and state unemployment insurance system. The guilty plea was entered without the benefit of a plea agreement.
Gonzales and his co-defendant, Gerald Archuleta, 43, of Ojo Caliente, N.M., were charged in a six-count indictment that was filed on March 26, 2014. Count 1 charged the two men with conspiracy to commit mail fraud in furtherance of a scheme to defraud the federal and state Unemployment Insurance System in New Mexico, Texas and Colorado of money by false and fraudulent pretenses. Counts 2 through 5 of the indictment charged the men with mail fraud, and Count 6 charges Gonzales alone with aggravated identity theft.
According to the indictment, the federal and state Unemployment Insurance System seeks to lessen the effects of unemployment through payments made to claimants (laid-off workers) on a weekly basis while the claimants seek employment. The unemployment insurance program is administered on behalf of the federal government by state workforce agencies in each state. The indictment alleges that between 2009 and 2012, Gonzales and Archuleta schemed to defraud the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions, the Texas Workforce Commission and the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment of more than $1,356,000 by making false and fraudulent claims for unemployment benefits in the names of real people.
The indictment alleges that Gonzales and Archuleta perpetuated their unlawful scheme by fraudulently registering numerous non-existent companies with the three state workforce agencies and filing false quarterly reports for the fictitious companies which identified claimed employees. The two men allegedly provided the names, dates of birth and social security numbers of the claimed employees to the state agencies without the knowledge or authorization of the claimed employees, who were real people. Gonzales and Archuleta then allegedly made false and fraudulent claims for unemployment benefit claims on behalf of the claimed employees of the fictitious companies. The two men allegedly opened post office boxes in New Mexico, Texas and Colorado, which they provided to the three state workforce agencies as mailing addresses for the claimed employees. The state agencies mailed debit cards to the claimed employees at the post office boxes and the defendants allegedly used the debit cards to withdraw the fraudulently obtained benefits. During the life of the conspiracy, Gonzales and Archuleta allegedly submitted fraudulent claims for unemployment benefits in the aggregate amount of $1,356,461, and defrauded the three state workforce agencies of approximately $801,848, in total.
The indictment includes forfeiture provisions seeking a money judgment in the amount of $801,848 as well as the forfeiture of assets and property which constitute or are derived from proceeds traceable to the criminal activity alleged in the indictment.
During today’s proceedings, Gonzales pled guilty to all six counts of the indictment. Gonzales also admitted to the forfeiture provisions of the indictment and to the entry of an $801,848 money judgment against him. At sentencing, Gonzales faces a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison on the conspiracy charge and each of the five mail fraud charges. He also will be sentenced to a two-year mandatory prison sentence to be served consecutive to any sentence imposed on the conspiracy and mail fraud charges. Gonzales’ sentencing date has yet to be scheduled.
Archuleta has entered a not guilty plea to the indictment. Charges in indictments are merely accusations and Archuleta is presumed innocent unless found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
This case was investigated by the Department of Labor Office of Inspector General, Office of Labor Racketeering and Frauds Investigations, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Tara C. Neda.