Worker bilked city’s COVID-19 hotel program for $400K: feds – New York Post


A city call center worker allegedly turned the COVID-19 emergency hotel room program into a lucrative payday by illegally booking luxury rooms online for cut-rate prices to the tune of a $400,000 profit.

Chanette Lewis, 30, was charged with fraud, conspiracy, and identity theft in connection with the alleged scam of the city’s COVID-19 Hotel Room Isolation Program — which was created to quarantine medical workers exposed to the virus.

Under the racket, the Office of Emergency Management worker used health care workers’ info to book rooms on the government’s dime, and advertised the vacancies on Facebook, officials said in a statement Tuesday.

“I’m Doing Hotels 60 Percent 5 star hotels I do not know exactly what hotel u would be place but I know it would be 5 star hotel … be cash app ready !!” Lewis advertised, according to prosectutors.

“Book Today, $300 For the whole monthhhhhhhhhhhhhh !! !! !! !!” another post allegedly read.

Lewis — along with accomplices Tatiana Benjamin, Tatiana Daniel, and Haven West — booked more than 2,700 illegal stays at Manhattan and Bronx hotels, including 28 for her own enjoyment, the feds said.

Some of the woman’s clients “threw large parties, and sometimes even engaged in violence,” US Attorney Special Agent Jared Eannucci alleged.

Lewis allegedly took doctors' credentials from her job at the call center.
Lewis allegedly took doctors’ credentials from her job at the call center.
AP

Lewis even bragged about her misdeeds on Facebook, according to the complaint.

“I stole some doctor numbers and emails … I was writing down they employed [sic] ID number lmao,” she wrote. “I made 16K in 5 days I’m proud of myselfffff,” a private message allegedly read.

The suspect also allegedly left a digital trail while recruiting her co-conspirators.

“I wanna teach u the ropes of it,” Lewis wrote Benjamin, 26, last June, according to prosecutors.

“I work for 311 oem that how I got doctors licenses and stuff . . . I work in the part that I collect they information and I do and approval the booking . . . I take doctors and stuff certificate numbers and stuff,” Lewis said on Facebook.

“Let’s get this bread while this s–t active,” the Queens woman allegedly replied.

When the city wised up to the scheme the next month, Benjamin allegedly foreshadowed her fate in a message to Lewis.

“We goin to jail lmao,” it read, according to officials.

“During the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic, while this City grappled with soaring transmission and death rates, these defendants exploited the very City-run program meant to provide respite and isolation to healthcare workers and City residents desperately trying to find space to quarantine and stem the spread of the virus,” DOI Commissioner Margaret Garnett said.

Lewis is also accused of illegally collecting $45,000 in COVID-19 unemployment benefits while she was collecting a city paycheck and cooking up the brazen scheme.

Benjamin, Daniel, 27, and West, 21, each face 40 years behind bars. Lewis is looking at 72 years in far less desirable government lodgings.

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