NEWARK— A Hudson County man was sentenced this week to nine years in prison for stealing more than $219,000 in unemployment benefits.

Ricardo Santiago, 32, of Union City, also was ordered to repay the stolen money.

Santiago pleaded guilty to second-degree theft by deception on Dec. 21, 2015.

The investigation by the Essex County Prosecutor's Office found that Santiago created numerous fake unemployment insurance claims, W-2 forms, pay stubs and wages for two New Jersey-based businesses and filed them with the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development over the span of two years.

Santiago deposited the money into other individuals' financial accounts that he controlled.

Assistant Prosecutor Deborah Freier said Friday that Santiago threatened the state’s unemployment program by stealing from workers who have a legitimate need for benefits.

“It is our hope that this case will send a clear message that individuals who defraud state benefit systems will face,” Freir said.

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