A New York woman has been sentenced to two years in prison for stealing more than $300,000 in taxpayer funds, in part to finance the “supernatural curse” she wanted placed on her ex-boyfriend.
Eliana Bauta, 36, admitted that while working for New York City’s Human Resources Administration, she and two other HRA employees stole emergency benefits funds meant to go to needy New Yorkers, officials said.
Most of the stolen funds went to family and friends, including in one instance where Bauta doctored a police report submitted on behalf of an actual recipient to divert the money to her loved one, prosecutors said.
In another instance, Bauta submitted paperwork to obtain funds for a fabricated disaster. She used the money to pay a supernatural specialist to place a voodoo hex on her former beau, prosecutors said.
“My mental illness has led me to a path of destruction,” Bauta said in Manhattan Federal Court, the New York Daily News reported. “What I have done will haunt me for the rest of my life.”
Bauta worked as a job opportunity specialist at HRA from 2008 to 2018.
Her scam came to light after the city’s Department of Investigation in 2015 began looking into reports from HRA about suspicious activity in the agency’s benefits system.
“Public benefits must be safeguarded for eligible individuals and not squandered by fraudsters who manipulate the system for their own gain,” Department of Investigation Commissioner Margaret Garnett said, the Daily News reported.
Bauta will also serve three years of supervised release.
Geraldine Perez, one of the two former employees with whom Bauta ran the scheme, was previously sentenced to nine months in prison for her part, the New York Post wrote. The other employee, Eric Gonzales, received two years’ probation.
The trio also ran a scheme in which they deposited checks intended for benefits recipients into their own accounts, authorities said.