A judge sentenced a Brazilian citizen to six months in prison for stealing more than $6,000 in pandemic unemployment assistance by illegally using another person’s name and Social Security number after entering the country illegally.
Marcos Antonio de Carvalho Vicente, 61, who has lived in Fall River for 34 years, received unemployment checks after submitting a fraudulent application, but the state Department of Unemployment Assistance stopped the payments after flagging a “suspected identity issue,” U.S. Attorney Rachel Rollins said. The office said.
De Carvalho Vicente was charged along with six other defendants who used Social Security numbers and other identifying information to obtain driver’s licenses, MassHealth benefits and unemployment assistance under the federal CARES Act, Rollins’ office previously said.
De Carvalho Vincent pleaded guilty to false representation of a Social Security number and theft of government money in a plea deal with federal prosecutors. Court documents say he stole $6,003 in pandemic unemployment benefits.
Federal Judge Dennis Kasper ordered De Carvalho Vicente to repay $6,003 to the state Department of Unemployment Assistance and imposed three years of supervised release. He is required to surrender on December 9.
De Carvalho Vincent’s attorney, Thomas Kerner, said he had no convictions for several counts of being under the influence in 1991 and “is working as hard as he can because he doesn’t have a Social Security card.”
“He was unable to obtain employment under his own name, so he was using an identity that someone else had given him before he left the country,” Kerner said.
He faces up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine for using a false Social Security number, and up to 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine for theft of government money.
Former President Donald Trump signed the CARES Act in March 2020, just as the COVID-19 pandemic was wreaking havoc on daily life and forcing many businesses to close.
The law created a temporary federal unemployment assistance program that provided benefits to people who did not qualify for other forms of unemployment.
The CARES Act created another federal epidemic unemployment assistance program that provided an additional $600 weekly payment.
Charging documents say De Carvalho Vicente admitted to agents that he purchased a fake identity from a friend and used it to apply for unemployment benefits. He also used fake identification to obtain a Massachusetts ID.
At Wednesday’s court hearing, de Carvalho Vicente addressed Judge Casper through a translator.
“I want to apologize for the crime I committed,” he said. “I’ve been here so long. I have a daughter, she is behind me, I take care of her financially. I will take any consequences at this point. And I want to say once again that I am very sorry.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Tolkoff said the Department of Homeland Security has not yet taken action against de Carvalho Vicente, although he said it is common for DHS to wait until criminal proceedings are completed.
“And what they would do in that situation, frankly, I don’t know,” he said.