A Delaware couple has been indicted on charges that they used the names of prison inmates to fraudulently collect more than $317,000 in New Jersey unemployment and temporary disability benefits.

Jose Crespo, 50, and his wife, Marilyn Crespo, 48, both of New Castle, Delaware, were indicted Wednesday on second degree charges of conspiracy, computer theft, identity theft and theft by deception. According to a statement by Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino, the couple allegedly stole $317,736 from the State of New Jersey by filing false claims.

A friend of Crespo's, identified as Craig Mallone, 61, of Wilmington, Delaware, was also indicted in the scheme. He is charged with second degree conspiracy, third degree theft by deception and second degree computer theft. The attorney general alleges that Crespo filed false unemployment benefits in Mallone's name, through which Mallone collected $12,825.

According to the attorney general, the Crespos allegedly devised two schemes between December 2012 and December 2015, which ultimately led to the theft of $317,736 in benefits from the state of New Jersey.

Authorities say Jose Crespo initially filed 19 false unemployment insurance claims listing the same two employers, which were "shell companies" set up by the couple in New Jersey. In 11 of those claims, the identities of current and former inmates of the Georgia state prison system were used, while others were filed using names of people in the Crespo family, the attorney general said.

"A total of $110,642 allegedly was stolen through false UI claims," according to the attorney general's statement Thursday.

The second scheme, Porrino said, involves 23 fraudulent temporary Disability Insurance claims that were filed in connection with seven employers that were also shell companies connected to the Crespos. Two of those companies were the same used by the Crespos in the fraudulent unemployment claims, authorities say. As with the first scheme, Porrino said the defendants used the names of current and former Georgia inmates - a total of 16 - to file the claims. They also used the names of members of the Crespo family again. In the second scheme, the couple allegedly stole a total of $207,094 through false claims.

“This type of fraud is a crime against honest New Jersey workers who count on these benefits to keep them afloat financially if they lose their jobs or become disabled,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice.

An investigation into the alleged criminal activity began when the Department of Labor uncovered suspicious activity. The indictment is the result of a joint investigation by several agencies including the Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau, the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, and the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General. Investigators in New Castle County, Delaware, also assisted, the attorney general said.

If convicted on the second degree charges, the couple could face a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and up to $150,00 in fines. The third degree charges could lead to prison terms of three to five years for the couple and $15,000 in fines, according to the attorney general.

Toniann Antonelli is a social content producer for NJ 101.5. She can be reached at toniann.antonelli@townsquaremedia.com, or on Twitter @ToniRadio1015.

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