2005-02-11 / Community

Local Mother, Daughter Bilk City For 180G

By Howard Schwach

Two Far Rockaway women have been bilking the city for more than 20 years by taking unwarranted housing subsidies and social security payments, the Department of Investigation (DOI) said last week.

The two, Juana Lopez, 63 and her daughter, Tomasina Lopez, 41, were arrested on February 3 and charged with defrauding both the New York City Housing Authority and the Social Security Administration of more than $180,000 over a twenty year period.

According to DOI Commissioner Rose Gill Hern, Juana Lopez used a bogus social security number to pose as a person in need to cheat the government even though she had a steady job and allegedly used the money to buy real estate. In addition, Lopez was a Section Eight landlord, collecting even more money from the city and state, authorities said. Her daughter, Tomasina Lopez, the mother of four, allegedly fleeced the city out of thousands of dollars in rent subsidies.

“The defendants received valuable and scarce housing subsidies at the expense of others who may have severely needed this help,” Hearn said,.

According to the DOI, Juana rented a two-bedroom apartment on the Ocean Bay Houses, paying only $285 a month. She claimed that her income was $587 a month in social security benefits, while she worked full-time on a phony social security number at Madelaine Chocolate Novelties in Rockaway, allegedly earning enough to purchase a $310 thousand house in Rockaway Beach.

Hearn said that Juana then rented her house to her daughter, who got sums running from $381 to $637 a month in subsidies from the government to pay the rent, even though she was working at a local Head Start program. Officials say, however, that the younger Lopez never reported her salary, nor that her husband, Darren Baker lived with her and worked as the director of security at the Tribeca Film Center. Had she reported her husband’s salary, the DOI said, she would not have received the subsidies.

Baker reportedly denied that he was married to Lopez and said that he did not live with her, but visited occasionally. Juana Lopez was charged with grand larceny in the second degree, criminal possession of a forged document in the first degree, identity theft in the first degree, offering a false instrument for filing and conspiracy. If convicted on all charges, she could spend 15 years in jail.

Tomasina Lopez was charged with grand larceny in the third degree, falsifying business records in the first degree, offering a false instrument for filing and conspiracy. She faces up to seven years in jail.

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