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James J. Wrynn    Superintendent of Insurance    25 Beaver Street  New York, N.Y. 10004

ISSUED 01/11/2010 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

COLUMBIA COUNTY WOMAN ACCUSED OF IDENTITY THEFT, LARCENY

A Columbia County woman who bought a Social Security number on the black market to create a false identity was arrested Wednesday for stealing more than $12,000 in workers’ compensation benefits, the New York State Insurance Department reported.

State Police at Livingston arrested Alma Rivas-Ford, also known under her alias as Gabriela Bravo, of Middle Road, Hudson. She is accused of collecting the benefits while working as an interpreter and driver for Hudson River Health Care, Inc., a medical clinic.

Investigators said Rivas-Ford, 52, admitted buying the Social Security number to create a false identity when she entered the United States more than 10 years ago. She is a Mexican citizen. The Social Security number had belonged to a deceased individual.

Rivas-Ford began receiving workers’ compensation benefits after injuring her arms and back while working as a laborer in 2001. She continued to accept the benefits from the New York Insurance Fund after obtaining employment as a driver for the Hudson River clinic. She also served as an interpreter for Spanish-speaking patients of the clinic.

An investigation was begun after the Insurance Fund conducted a routine check and discovered Rivas-Ford was employed. The investigation was conducted by the Insurance Department’s Frauds Bureau, the Insurance Fund and the Inspector General’s Office of the Workers’ Compensation Board.

Rivas-Ford was arraigned on charges of first degree identity theft and third degree grand larceny, both felonies, in the City of Hudson Court. She was remanded to jail in lieu of $50,000 bail. Additional charges are pending.

She could be sentenced to up to 14 years in prison if she is convicted of the identity theft and grand larceny charges. A hearing will be scheduled in Columbia County Court. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Mike Cozzolino.

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