Previously deported illegal immigrant arrested for $2 million in pandemic unemployment fraud

Yohauris Rodriguez Hernandez, a citizen of the Dominican Republic, was convicted of tax fraud in 2014, which led to her deportation.

Updated: January 26, 2022 - 11:01pm

A woman arrested in New York along with an unnamed "coconspirator" for allegedly perpetrating $1.9 million of pandemic unemployment fraud was a previously deported illegal immigrant, Just the News has learned.

Yohauris Rodriguez Hernandez, a citizen of the Dominican Republic, was convicted for running a tax fraud scheme in 2014. She was deported upon her release from prison in 2017. Together, Hernandez and Gerardo Enmanuel Luna Marmolejos stole more than 40,000 identities to file fraudulent income tax returns and collect refunds from the IRS.

Hernandez reentered the U.S. illegally after her previous deportation and went on to commit more alleged offenses, this time related to pandemic unemployment fraud, as Hernandez and her coconspirator filed fake unemployment claims with stolen information and collected weekly payments.

A Department of Justice spokesperson told Just the News that Hernandez committed the fraud across three separate states. Her schemes came to light after she left behind New York Department of Labor unemployment debit cards issued to scores of individuals in a hotel room in Yonkers, N.Y., according to a DOJ press release.

"From February 2020 through December 2020, YOHAURIS RODRIGUEZ HERNANDEZ and a co-conspirator ('CC-1') engaged in a scheme to obtain COVID-19 unemployment benefits through the fraudulent filing and verification of applications using the names and social security numbers of at least 100 other people," read the DOJ release. 

"Law enforcement agencies were first alerted to the scheme after YOHAURIS RODIRGUEZ HERNANDEZ and CC-1 fled a Yonkers hotel in December 2020 leaving behind in their previously occupied room over 500 pieces of NYS DOL mail containing information and NYS DOL-issued debit cards for approximately 76 individuals," the release reported.

Hernandez was arrested at an immigration detention center on Jan. 19, according to DOJ.

An Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spokesperson confirmed that Hernandez didn't commit the pandemic unemployment fraud at the immigration detention center. The spokesperson said she likely managed to illegally reenter the country undetected after her deportation in 2017 before later committing the pandemic-related fraud.

In March of 2020, the $2.2 trillion CARES Act established Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and allowed self-employed individuals to apply for jobless benefits. A bonus federal jobless payment was added on top of state benefits for self-employed individuals. Security experts have said this new allowance opened the floodgates for fraudsters. The U.S. Department of Labor has estimated that as much as $90 billion was paid in jobless benefits to ineligible applicants.

Hernandez is one of many individuals federal law enforcement officials have charged for fraud related to COVID-19 jobless benefits or forgivable loans under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

For example, a Social Security Administration employee was charged for using stolen personal information to apply for  PUA. The individual, Takiyah Gordon Austin was charged on July 20, 2021, and the case was formally unsealed on Aug. 12, 2021.