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United Way of Lancaster County


First defendant pleads guilty in ERAP fraud

The entrance to the Lancaster County Housing & Redevelopment Authorities’ offices at Penn Square in downtown Lancaster. (Photo: Tim Stuhldreher)

The first of 16 defendants charged with defrauding Lancaster County’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program has pleaded guilty.

Danaziah Garcia, 25, of the 1800 block of Habecker Road, Rapho Township, pled guilty Thursday in county court to theft by deception, criminal conspiracy, receiving stolen property, forgery, and unsworn falsification to authorities, the district attorney’s office announced.

Garcia will spend four years on probation and must pay $20,300 in restitution, the amount she is alleged to have received.

The assistance program, ERAP, distributed millions of dollars in federal funding to tenants who lost income during the pandemic to help cover their rent and utility payments and prevent eviction. In Lancaster County, the program was administered by the Lancaster County Redevelopment Authority.

In September, Garcia was one of 16 people charged with defrauding the local ERAP program, stealing more than $280,000. The other 15 cases remain pending, the district attorney’s office said.

One of the defendants, Brandice Reyes-Alvarez, was a tenant services coordinator at the authority. The district attorney’s office and the state Office of Inspector General alleges that she led the scheme and received kickbacks from other defendants who submitted fraudulent ERAP applications.

The applications listed fake landlord phone numbers. When called, an individual posing as a landlord would decline to receive ERAP payments, allowing the “tenants” to receive them instead.

The scheme reportedly ran from June 2021 to August 2022. Authority employees notified law enforcement in June 2022 after noticing anomalies in application materials, leading to the launch of the investigation. Reyes-Alvarez was terminated right away, authority Executive Director Justin Eby said.

Lancaster County received nearly $60 million through ERAP and used it to assist more than 4,500 households.