A city social worker formerly employed by the Passaic County Board of Social Services and her boyfriend pleaded guilty to taking rental and food assistance intended for the needy on Wednesday afternoon, according to the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office.
Jecemia Echevarria, 43, and James Hayer, 33, pleaded guilty to charge of second-degree theft by deception. Additionally, Echevarria pleaded guilty to second-degree conspiracy to commit official misconduct.
From April 2008 to December 2011 while working as a social worker at the county social services office Echevarria obtained funds intended for needy individuals receiving public assistance.
Through fraud and deception Echevarria obtained funds intended for recipients of Temporary Rental Assistance (TRA) and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), authorities said. TRA and TANF programs assist the need with food, moving, clothing, and furniture.
Hayer served as an accomplice by using his moving company and unlawfully billing and accepting payment for moving assistance that was never delivered.
In return for her guilty plea, the state agreed to dismiss other charges like tampering with public records against Echevarria. Prosecutor will recommend Echevarria be sentenced to five years in state prison with three years before parole.
The deal also results in Echevarria forfeiting her public employment and pay $75,000 in restitution to the county. Authorities said Echevarria will pay a check for $25,000 during her June 23 sentencing before Passaic County Superior Court Judge Bruno Mongiardo.
Echevarria will also give up $8,967 in salary that’s owed to her from the county. The plea deal permits the social services board to pursue civil action against Echevarria for further restitution, authorities said.
The prosecutor will recommend a four-year prison sentence for Hayer.