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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Former New York City Human Resources Administration Employee Pleads Guilty To Fraud And Cocaine Trafficking

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that PETRONILA PERALTA, a/k/a “Petra,” a former employee with the New York City Human Resources Administration (“HRA”), pled guilty to defrauding a public assistance program that she had administered during the time when she worked for HRA, resulting in the theft of more than $600,000 in public funds, and to trafficking more than 50 kilograms of cocaine following her separation from HRA.  PERALTA, who was arrested in December 2015, entered her pleas today before U.S. District Judge Gregory H. Woods, and was ordered remanded.  She is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Woods on April 4, 2017.

U.S. Attorney Bharara stated:  “As she admitted today, in addition to cocaine trafficking, Petronila Peralta defrauded the public by stealing more than $600,000.  This money was intended to aid the neediest New Yorkers, including children, by helping to defray the costs of basic nutrition and housing.” 

According to the Complaint, Indictment, plea agreement, other information in the public record, and today’s proceeding:

HRA is an agency of the City of New York responsible for administering various public assistance programs.  Among other things, HRA provides temporary help to individuals and families with social service and economic needs to assist them in reaching self-sufficiency.  Its services include, among others, administering the federally funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (more commonly known as “food stamps”), administering the federally funded Temporary Aid to Needy Families Program, and providing rental assistance to low-income families and individuals.

Between 2005 and August 2014, PERALTA worked at HRA, most recently as a Job Opportunity Specialist in a job center in Queens, New York.  In that capacity, PERALTA was supposed to provide economic support and employment-related services to persons in need.  Starting by approximately 2009, PERALTA abused her position by fraudulently issuing more than approximately 800 supplemental issuances to individuals who were not entitled to such payments.  A “supplemental issuance” is a supplemental transmission of funds to a public assistance beneficiary who did not receive the amount of funds he or she was due previously.  Between approximately 2009 and May 2011, PERALTA repeatedly issued such funds not to individuals who were entitled to them, but to co-conspirators, and took steps to conceal her conduct, including by using the computer system log-in information of a former employee of HRA, rather than her own.  The scheme led by PERALTA resulted in the loss of more than approximately $600,000 in public funds.

Following her separation from HRA, between approximately January 2013 and March 2015, PERALTA agreed to and did receive, and help others to receive, through the mail more than 50 kilograms of cocaine meant for re-distribution.

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PERALTA, 52, of the Bronx, New York, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which carries a statutory maximum of 20 years in prison, and one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess cocaine, which carries a statutory maximum of 20 years in prison.  The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.

U.S. Attorney Bharara praised the work of the New York City Department of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the United States Postal Inspection Service.

The case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Public Corruption and Narcotics Units.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Daniel C. Richenthal and Shawn G. Crowley are in charge of the prosecution.

Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Public Corruption
Press Release Number: 
17-001
Updated January 3, 2017