LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM)– Charges were filed against more than a dozen people including an employee of a Lancaster County Housing and Redevelopment Authority (LCHRA) for allegedly stealing COVID-19 pandemic assistance funds.

The 16 people charged allegedly conspired with former LCHRA employee Brandice Reyes-Alvarez to submit fake applications to steal over $280,000 from a federal rental assistance program, according to the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office.

“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 in a statement. “Here, more than $280,000 was stolen by these defendants when others were truly in need.”

An investigation between the DA’s Office and the Pennsylvania Office of State Inspector General (OSIG) discovered that the applications submitted by 16 people had allegedly forged documents such as leases, statements, and past due rent.

The Lancaster County Emergency Rental Assistance Program helps with rental and utility payments for tenants who were financially struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic. LCHRA was directly responsible for these payments that were made to landlords, although if they declined the money went to the tenants, the release states.

There were flagged program payments to an LCHRA employee that were reported to officials and there were suspicious applications that had the same phone number with different landlords.

The District Attorney’s office says one instance occurred where information from a landlord who passed away years prior was used and when LCHRA staff would call for verification, the suspect would act as the landlord.

Below are those who are charged and the amount allegedly stolen:

  • Dustin Branch, Lancaster – $19,500.00
  • Alyssa Cruz, Manheim –  $18,525.00
  • Danari Garcia, Leola – $19,240.00
  • Danaziah Garcia, Columbia – $20,300.00
  • Eladio Hernandez-Matos, Lancaster – $19,175.00
  • Tatiana Hernandez-Matos, Lititz – $20,000.00
  • Amanda Martin, Lancaster – $22,500.00
  • Kleisy Montas-Rivera, Lancaster – $16,800.00
  • Matthew Nelson, Leola – $17,100.00
  • Marisol Reed, Lancaster – $21,700.00
  • Brandice Reyes-Alvarez, Leola – $7,730.00
  • Briana Robles, Lancaster – $20,625.00
  • Leonard Streeter, Leola – $19,939.00
  • Adeline White, Lancaster – $161,455.00
  • William White III, Lancaster – $18,850.00
  • William White Jr., Lancaster – $19,250.00

“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,” State Inspector General Lucas M. Miller said. “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 individuals arrested each face a lead charge of theft by deception, a third-degree felony. The District Attorney’s office says 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 some cases.

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.