Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., today announced the guilty plea of JOSE PANCHANA, 39, for stealing thousands of dollars from individuals seeking jobs through the collection of fake employment fees. The defendant pleaded guilty in New York State Supreme Court to the top charge in both indictments against him, Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree. He is expected to be sentenced on May 17, 2016.
“Just four days after being released on bail, Jose Panchana had the audacity to repeat the same scam with new victims,” said District Attorney Vance. “Panchana’s numerous victims included immigrants from Spanish-speaking countries, many of whom did not speak English. I urge all job seekers to be suspicious of employment opportunities that require any kind of advance payment. Additionally, I encourage anyone who believes that he or she may have been the victim of this type of fraud to call my Office’s Immigrant Affairs Hotline at 212-335-3600, regardless of immigration status.”
Port Authority’s Inspector General Michael Nestor said: “The Port Authority Office of Inspector General will continue to work aggressively with our law enforcement partners to identify, arrest and prosecute those that prey on the less fortunate by offering false promises of employment at our facilities.”
As admitted in the defendant’s guilty plea, between August 6, 2014 and September 8, 2014, PANCHANA orchestrated a scam in which he claimed to be a hiring manager for JetBlue who was looking to fill numerous positions. PANCHANA often recruited victims at their church or current workplace. When the victims contacted the defendant, he instructed them to send him money via wire transfers to pay for uniforms, drug testing, and background checks. Once PANCHANA received the money, he disappeared and cut off all communications with the victims. The defendant, who was never employed by JetBlue, asked victims to pay him amounts ranging from $150 to $600 apiece.
On December 9, 2014, PANCHANA was charged in New York State Supreme Court for the above-mentioned conduct. He was released on bail on June 24, 2015. Between June 28th and July 8, 2015, PANCHANA once again posed as a hiring manager for the airline and stole from additional victims seeking employment. On September 28, 2015, he was charged in New York State Supreme Court for the 2015 conduct.
Assistant District Attorney Mayerling Rivera handled the prosecution of the case, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Archana Rao, Deputy Chief of the Financial Frauds Bureau, Assistant District Attorney Michael Sachs, Chief of the Financial Frauds Bureau, and Executive Assistant District Attorney David Szuchman, Chief of the Investigation Division.
District Attorney Vance thanked members of the Port Authority Inspector General’s Office who assisted in the investigation, including, Detective John Curnyn; Police Investigator Don Swiatocha; Supervisory Police Investigator Ed Choo; Director of Investigations Steve Pasichow; and Assistant Director Investigations Salvatore Dalessandro.