Eliana Bauta is a former New York City employee charged with stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars that had been earmarked for public assistance payments and emergency benefits. Bauta has pleaded guilty to conspiring to take checks that rightfully belonged to needy New Yorkers. She handed over some of the money to her friends, and used some of it to pay for a supposed voodoo practitioner to put a curse of one of her enemies. Here’s what you need to know:
1. Bauta Allegedly Used the City’s Emergency Fund to Pay Someone Who Put a ‘Supernatural Curse’ on Her Ex Boyfriend
Eliana Bauta worked for New York City’s Human Resources Administration, the agency which administers public assistance and other benefits. As an HRA employee, prosecutors say, Bauta ordered emergency funds to be issued to a number of her relatives and friends — even though they weren’t facing any actual emergencies. Prosecutors say that in one case, Bauta altered a police report that had been submitted by an actual HRA client. Bauta erased the name of the actual victim and replaced it with the name of one of her family members, so that her family member received emergency benefits.
Another time, prosecutors charge, Bauta put in a request for emergency benefits which were supposed to be issued to someone following a disaster. But prosecutors say that in fact, there was no disaster, and the request for benefits was fraudulent. Prosecutors say that the money was intended to repay the individual for supposed putting a “supernatural curse” on Bauta’s ex-boyfriend.
2. Bauta Issued Benefits to Friends & Family Who Then Shared the Profits with Her, Prosecutors Say
Prosecutors say that Bauta, 35, siphoned off a total of around $300,000 from the city over the years. The prosecution charges that Bauta was issuing fraudulent benefits to Geraldine Perez, 60, and Eric Gonzales, 26. They then deposited the benefits checks and shared the money with Bauta, according to the court.
Bauta, Perez and Gonzales have all pleaded guilty to scheming to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars from the city. All three co-defendents are from The Bronx, New York. Bauta was arrested last year in Florida.
3. Bauta Helped Forge Documents So Her Mother Could Receive Emergency Benefits for a Fire Which Burned Down Someone Else’s Home
The complaint filed against Bauta charges that in 2014, she entered an application for her mother to receive assistance to replace household items after a fire in her apartment on 233rd street in The Bronx. Bauta also scanned a document from the FDNY explaining where the fire took place. But the document that Bauta scanned was illegible and made it impossible to read the address of the actual fire. In fact, Bauta’s mother did not live in the apartment which was impacted by the fire.
The complaint — filed by a special investigator with the City of New York – against Bauta charges that she took a real FDNY fire report and then submitted a version that was — intentionally — illegible, so that she could then claim that the fire took place at her mother’s address.
4. Bauta Faces Up to 20 Years in Prison
Bauta originally pleaded not guilty to the charges facing her. But on April 11, she changed her plea, declaring that she was guilty. She will face up to 10 years in prison for the federal program theft count and up to 20 years for the wire fraud conspiracy count. She is scheduled to be sentenced in July.
Prosecutors say that Bauta and her co-conspirators schemed to steal $300,000 from the city, taking money that was intended for public assistance and emergency benefits. They say that Bauta issued fraudulent benefits to her friends and family members, who then deposited the benefit checks and shared the money with her. In one case, they say Bauta used money from the city’s emergency fund to pay off someone who had supposed cast a supernatural curse on her ex boyfriend.
5. Bauta Has a Science Degree from Monroe College in The Bronx
Eliana Bauta is 35 years old and lives in The Bronx, although she was in Florida at the time of her arrest. She holds a Bachelor of Science from Monroe College in The Bronx. She also has an Associates Degree in paralegal studies from Interboro College in Queens, New York.