LANCASTER, PA — The Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office and Pennsylvania Office of State Inspector General (OSIG) have filed charges against 16 suspects who illegally received funds available due to the COVID-19 pandemic under false circumstances.
The defendants are alleged to have conspired with a former employee, Brandice Reyes-Alvarez, at Lancaster County Housing and Redevelopment Authorities (LCHRA), to submit fraudulent applications for rental assistance. LCHRA is the public authority designated to accept and process Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) applications.
“These funds were provided by our government for the purpose of assisting the many people who suffered financial hardship as a result of the pandemic,” Lancaster County District Attorney Heather Adams said. “Here, more than $280,000 was stolen by these defendants when others were truly in need.”
“The Office of State Inspector General is committed to holding accountable anyone who commits fraud, waste, or abuse of taxpayer money, whoever and wherever they are,” said State Inspector General Lucas M. Miller. “I applaud the coordination and work of the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office to ensure that those who steal public dollars are brought to justice.”
The Lancaster County ERAP was established in March 2021 to provide rental and utility payments to landlords and utility companies to keep residents housed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Funding for the program was provided by the U.S. Department of Treasury directly to the County and by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania through the Department of Human Services.
LCHRA was responsible for reviewing assistance applications and the disbursement of the funds for rental assistance to tenants facing pandemic-related financial hardship. Payments were made to landlords or directly to tenants when landlords chose not to participate.
The defendants each face a lead charge of theft by deception, a third-degree felony. Charges of dealing in proceeds of unlawful activity, conspiracy, identity theft, receiving stolen property, tampering with records or identification, theft by unlawful taking, and forgery have been filed in certain cases.
The investigation into the fraudulent applications began in June 2022 when a member of LCHRA contacted OSIG after uncovering several suspicious applications within ERAP. The discovery occurred when internal procedures flagged program payments to an employee. That application revealed inconsistent information and a phone number not associated with the landlord listed. This phone number was identified on several other fraudulent applications.
The investigation revealed that 16 people submitted fraudulent assistance applications containing false information that was supported by forged documents such as leases, statements of past due rent and other fraudulent documents.
The scheme involved providing a false phone number and landlord information on the assistance application, including a landlord who had passed away in 2018. LCHRA staff would call the number provided on the application and receive verification from the person pretending to be a landlord that they did not want to participate in the program. As a result, the funds would be provided directly to the tenant.
Checks were issued and sent directly to the applicant or e-deposited into bank accounts and, in several cases, investigators found that a portion of the proceeds was sent back to Reyes-Alvarez and other codefendants assisting in the scheme.
The money was claimed and received from June 2021 until August 2022 and losses total approximately $281,004. After the discovery, the LCHRA immediately put steps into place to make sure additional fraud was flagged and no longer accepts electronic applications. The ERAP program is ongoing, however, assistance is limited to preventing eviction.
The 16 charged individuals with the amount of funds each allegedly received or conspired to receive are:
- Dustin Branch, 34 of the 200 block of Pennshire Drive, Lancaster – $19,500.00
- Alyssa Cruz, 24 of the first block of S. Wolf Street, Manheim – $18,525.00
- Danari Garcia, 27 of the first block of Bradford Drive, Leola – $19,240.00
- Danaziah Garcia, 24 of the 1800 block of Habacker Road, Columbia – $20,300.00
- Eladio Hernandez-Matos, 23 of the 300 block of Dickens Drive, Lancaster – $19,175.00
- Tatiana Hernandez-Matos, 25 of the 500 block of Hometowne Terrace, Lititz – $20,000.00
- Amanda Martin, 33 of the 700 block of N. Cherry Street, Lancaster – $22,500.00
- Kleisy Montas-Rivera, 28 of the 100 block of Dauphin Street, Lancaster – $16,800.00
- Matthew Nelson, 36 of the first block of Bradford Drive, Leola – $17,100.00
- Marisol Reed, 46 of the 900 block of E. Orange Street, Lancaster – $21,700.00
- Brandice Reyes-Alvarez, 40 of the 100 block of E. Main Street, Leola – $7,730.00
- Briana Robles, 29 of the first block of Ranck Avenue, Lancaster – $20,625.00
- Leonard Streeter, 35 of the 100 block of E. Main Street, Leola – $19,939.00
- Adeline White, 37 of the 300 block of Dickens Drive, Lancaster – $161,455.00
- William White III, 37 of the 300 block of Dickens Drive, Lancaster – $18,850.00
- William White Jr., 63 of the 600 block of New Green Street, Lancaster – $19,250.00
Danari Garcia, Eladio Hernandez-Matos, Matthew Nelson, Brandice Reyes-Alvarez, Adeline White, and William White III have been arraigned before Magisterial District Judge Adam Witkonis, who set bail at $25,000 unsecured.
Dustin Branch, Alyssa Cruz, Danaziah Garcia, Tatiana Hernandez-Matos, Marisol Reed, and Briana Robles have been arrested and are awaiting arraignment.
Amanda Martin, Kleisy Montas-Rivera, Leonard Streeter, and William White Jr. are scheduled to be arraigned next week.
DA Adams and her office thank OSIG for its thorough investigation into this matter.
PA OSIG Special Agent Carolina Vega and Lancaster County Detective Brendan McAnally filed charges, which were approved by Assistant District Attorney Mark Fetterman.
Information, a criminal complaint, or an arrest is not a declaration of guilt. A suspect, arrestee, or defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.