Authorities: Leader of false unemployment claims scheme gets 7-year state prison term

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TRENTON, New Jersey — A northern New Jersey man who led a scheme to steal more than $180,000 by filing false unemployment claims is now headed to prison.

State authorities say 54-year-old Stephen Pirrone, of Paramus, received a seven-year sentence Friday. He also must pay $54,623 in restitution to the state Department of Labor.

Pirrone had pleaded guilty in February to conspiracy and theft by deception charges.

Acting Attorney General John Hoffman says the scheme ran from November 2006 through March 2013, and he recruited three other men to take part.

Prosecutors say the men's claims were flagged because they used the same defunct employers and other common elements. The defunct businesses were a trucking company Pirrone used to operate and a bankrupt trucking company from which he once rented office and terminal space.

The Attorney General's office said Pirrone and his cohorts — Wilfredo Sanchez, 38, and Jose Flores, 39, both of Newark, and Andre Brown, 37, of Woodland Park — collected $183,433 overall in unemployment benefits on seven fraudulent claims.

Sanchez received a five-year sentence in February and was ordered to pay $43,908 in restitution. Flores served more than six months in jail and was given five years of probation, and also must pay $34,827 in restitution.

Brown failed to appear for his sentencing in February and is being sought on an arrest warrant. He will have to pay $59,400 in restitution.

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