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Benefits scam: Restaurant owner got free family health care, prosecutor says

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: As a kitchen helper making $350 a week, Ignacio Piedra certainly was entitled to free health care for his family — except that Piedra actually owns the restaurant and lives in a $1.4 million house in Palisades Park.

To steal free health care in times like this when people are out of work and uninsured is a travesty,” said Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli.

Molinelli’s detectives arrested Piedra at his recently-built home early this morning and charged with defrauding New Jersey Family Care, a federal- and state-funded health insurance program created to help uninsured children and certain low-income parents obtain affordable heath coverage.

Ralph’s (lower left); Piedra & his home

Investigators acted on a tip that Piedra, his wife, Leonor, and two children were ripping off taxpayers  from 2005 to 2009.

Piedra gave the government letters “stating that he worked as a kitchen helper” for Ralph’s Restaurant on 9th Avenue in Manhattan making $350 a week in cash, Molinelli said. In return, he and his family got free health care.

In fact, the prosecutor said, Piedra is CEO of a corporation named CHALEO, which owns and operates Ralph’s Restaurant, the prosecutor said. Documents show an annual income of more than $200,000 the past five years, and more than $100,000 a year before.

His house is valued at $1.37 million, and carries annual property taxes of $19,767.66. 

According to the eligibility criteria of New Jersey Family Care, a family of four making more than $4,299.00 monthly wouldn’t be eligible to apply for health benefits. By providing false information, Ignacio Piedra was able to receive health benefits that he and his family were not entitled to.

Piedra, 54, was freed on $50,000 bail pending grand jury action.

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