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Former NYC HRA Supervisor Defrauded Public Assistance Programs

Cherrise Watson-Jackson, a/k/a “Reesie,” a former supervisor with the New York City Human Resources Administration (“HRA”), was sentenced in Manhattan federal court on Friday, October, 7, to 23 months in prison for defrauding two public assistance programs, which she helped to administer, of more than $1.8 million. Cherrise pleaded guilty in early May 2016 to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

According to the Complaint, Superseding Indictment, sentencing submissions, 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 other things, administering the federally-funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP”) (more commonly known as “food stamps”), and providing rental assistance to low-income families and individuals.

Starting in 1993, Watson-Jackson worked at HRA, most recently as a supervisor in a job center in Queens, New York. In that capacity, she supervised a group of other supervisors who in turn were responsible for teams of employees who review and determine eligibility for public assistance clients. Since early 2012, and continuing until December 2013, Watson-Jackson abused her position by engaging in a scheme to defraud two of the public assistance programs that she was charged to help administer. The first of the two schemes involved Watson-Jackson fraudulently loading electronic benefit transfer (“EBT”) cards

with funds from SNAP, and the cards were then used by co-conspirators throughout the New York City area. The second scheme involved Watson-Jackson fraudulently causing rental assistance checks to be mailed to co-conspirators who posed as “landlords” of low-income tenants. Co-conspirators then cashed and/or assisted others to cash the fraudulently obtained checks. The two schemes resulted in the loss of more than $1.8 million in public funds.

In addition to her 23-month prison term, Watson-Jackson, 45, of Queens, New York, was sentenced to three years of supervise release, and ordered to forfeit $1,809,811.75 and to pay restitution in the same amount.

Watson-Jackson was arrested in early December 2015, along with Maurice Cromwell, a/k/a “Reese,” 40, of Staten Island, New York; Derrick Williams, a/k/a “Blood,” 35, of Queens, New York; Isaac Allen, 40, of Brooklyn, New York; Corey Brock, a/k/a “Cee,” 36, of Queens, New York; Vernecka Petersen-Fowler, 44, of Brooklyn, New York; Kevin Williams, 38, of Queens, New York; Jaron Annuziata, 36, of Brooklyn, New York; Beverly Franklin, 38, of Queens, New York; Beverly Lord, 54, of Queens, New York; Yesenia Depena, 25, of Brooklyn, New York; and Gerard Stokes, 32, of Queens, New York. To date, all defendants except Lord, Depena, and Stokes have pleaded guilty to their participation in one or both fraudulent schemes, and Cromwell, Derrick Williams, Allen, Brock, Petersen-Fowler, Annuziata, and Franklin have been sentenced. Cromwell and Derrick Williams, who served in managerial roles in both schemes, were sentenced to 27 months in prison and 37 months in prison, respectively; Allen was sentenced to 18 months in prison; Brock was sentenced to five years of probation with special conditions of nine months of home confinement and 200 hours of community service; Petersen-Fowler was sentenced to three years of probation with a special condition of eight months of home confinement; Annuziata was sentenced to three years of probation with a special condition of eight months of home confinement; and Franklin was sentenced to three years of probation. All of the defendants that have been sentenced were also ordered to forfeit proceeds of the fraud and to pay restitution.