Albany, NY (August 29, 2012) -
The New York State Department of Labor (DOL) today announced the arrest of four people in Suffolk County for stealing $37,438 in unemployment insurance (UI) benefits. Detectives from the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office arrested two current and two former United States Internal Revenue Service employees. All are Suffolk County residents. The arrests stemmed from a DOL investigation, in cooperation with the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office.
Governor Cuomo said, "Unemployed New Yorkers are the real victims of scammers who take advantage of the UI system. Fraud against our UI system will not be tolerated. We will continue to put our efforts into preventing and investigating instances of fraud against the system."
The names of the individuals charged and amount of UI benefits stolen are as follows:
|Christopher Najdek||Medford, NY||$13,775|
|Marcel Oneal||Lindenhurst, NY||$13,263|
|Michelle Oyer||Mastic, NY||$7,286|
|Jennifer Connolly||Centereach, NY||$3,114|
Each was charged with one count of 3rd degree Grand Larceny, a class D felony, for stealing UI benefits while employed at the Holtsville Internal Revenue Service facility between November 2010 and July 2012.
The DOL's Office of Special Investigations (OSI) worked with the U.S. Treasury and the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Inspector General to get payroll records for the IRS workers. OSI routinely cross matches Federal wages and UI payment records to look for evidence of fraud. When fraud is found, OSI works with local district attorneys to prosecute the cases. The DOL thanked the Suffolk County District Attorney for his partnership.
Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas J. Spota said: "Individuals who scheme to defraud taxpayers by stealing money intended for the unemployed are on notice the Department of Labor's Office of Special Investigations and federal investigators have joined forces with local law enforcement to find and prosecute thieves. This collaboration of resources enhances our ability to identify fraudsters and secure the evidence we need to convict the guilty."
U.S. Department of Labor Deputy Inspector General Daniel R. Petrole said: "These recent arrests demonstrate the Office of Inspector General's commitment to safeguarding the Department of Labor's UI Program. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to investigate these types of schemes."
U.S. Treasury Department Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) J. Russel George said: "Employees of the Internal Revenue Service must maintain the highest standards of integrity. Any allegations of misconduct will be investigated and referred for prosecution as appropriate." TIGTA is the Federal agency responsible for providing independent oversight of the IRS and protecting the integrity of tax administration.
Employers across the state contribute to New York's UI Trust Fund. When the Fund is forced to pay out because of a fraudulent claim, employers have to pay more -- and that means consumers will be paying more as well.
New York State operates one of the largest UI systems in the country. In 2011, New York State paid out nearly $7.7 billion in total UI benefits to 1.15 million people. At the height of the recession in 2009, the state paid out $9.2 billion in UI benefits to 1.2 million people.
"Employers have a vital role in combating UI fraud. Employers should carefully examine notices of UI benefit payments from the Department of Labor to help us identify fraudulent activity," said New York State Labor Commissioner Peter M. Rivera. "Alerting the Department of Labor about an employee fraudulently collecting benefits saves taxes for employers and the general public alike."
The DOL's OSI partners with employers to aggressively investigate and root out UI fraud within their businesses. OSI builds cases and refers them to local district attorneys to prosecute. During the last three years, DOL has uncovered more than $150,480,451 in fraudulent UI payments and referred more than 2,600 cases to district attorneys and law enforcement agencies, including 750 last year alone.
Anyone with information about UI fraud should call the Department of Labor's toll-free fraud hotline at (888) 598-2077.