A Brooklyn woman admitted to being a part of a scheme to defraud the New York City COVID-19 Hotel Room Isolation Program of over $400,000.
Tatiana Benjamin, 28, pleaded guilty to one felony count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. 22-year-old Heaven West, of Atlanta, Georgia, also admitted to her role in the scheme, pleading guilty to one felony count of wire fraud.
“With these guilty pleas, all four defendants are held accountable for their misuse of a City program intended to serve healthcare workers, COVID-19 patients and others impacted by the pandemic, for their personal profit,” DOI Commissioner Jocelyn E. Strauber said. “DOI, our fellow City agencies, and our law enforcement partners are committed to protecting City resources and ensuring that those resources benefit their intended recipients, and I thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York for their prosecution of this matter and the City Office of Emergency Management for their cooperation on the investigation.”
According to the indictment, Benjamin and West, alongside co-conspirators Tatiana Daniel and Chanette Lewis, participated in a scheme to defraud the City’s Hotel Isolation Program, which provided free hotel rooms for patients convalescing from COVID-19 and for healthcare workers who needed to self-isolate due to exposure. Both Benjamin and West falsely claimed they were healthcare workers by misappropriating actual healthcare workers’ identifying information and then used Facebook to advertise the fraudulently-obtained rooms to people who did not meet the criteria of the program’s requirements.
In October 2021, all four women were arrested for their roles in the scheme. Daniel pleaded guilty to one felony count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud on Nov. 22 while Lewis pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud on Dec. 2.
Both West and Benjamin are set to be sentenced on May 18, 2023, where they each face up to 20 years in prison.