Probe: 60 postal workers got jobless benefits
Updated 11 p.m.
ALBANY A statewide investigation uncovered more than 60 people who worked for the U.S. Postal Service and also collected some form of unemployment benefits, authorities announced Thursday.
Each of the individuals, according to the state Department of Labor, was uncovered through use of data mining, comparing unemployment rolls with federal wage data and the Postal Service payroll.
Twenty of the suspects were referred for prosecution and seven have since pleaded guilty to a federal charge, according to the state Department of Labor and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Authorities did not say why more than 40 people were not prosecuted.
In all, the 60-plus people identified by the Department of Labor collected more than $425,000 in unemployment insurance benefits while working for the U.S. Postal Service. They were employed as mail carriers, processing clerks or casual laborers.
One of the workers, Clarence Reed, 46, of Schenectady, admitted illegally taking $11,255 in unemployment benefits from February to October 2011 while he worked as a mail processing clerk at the Old Karner Road office in Albany, according to paperwork filed in court.
Reed pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to obtain unemployment compensation, a misdemeanor.
Six others, none from the Capital Region, pleaded guilty this week, and at least six others are still facing charges.
“Unemployed New Yorkers and businesses are the real victims of scammers who take advantage of the unemployment insurance system,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement Thursday. “Fraud against our unemployment insurance system will not be tolerated. We will continue to put our efforts into preventing and investigating instances of fraud against the system.”
The arrests stemmed from an investigation begun by the Labor Department’s Office of Special Investigations Major Case Unit. The unit uses data mining to identify complex fraud against the unemployment insurance program. In the current cases, the unit compared federal wage data to identify those defrauding the government, the state said.
Previous investigations by the state unit have uncovered other groups of federal and state employees, including IRS employees, who stole benefits from the unemployment insurance program, according to the Department of Labor.
The state Department of Labor’s Major Case Unit worked with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, U.S. Department of Labor office of the Inspector General and the U.S. Postal Service Office of the Inspector General.
The cooperative effort allowed the state unit to analyze Postal Service payroll, conduct interviews and calculate the fraud. Some of the funds stolen were paid as part of the American Recovery Reinvestment Act stimulus package, according to the state.
The others pleading guilty were from Plattsburgh, Brooklyn, Nyack, Rocky Point and the Bronx. They were each ordered to pay full restitution for the amount they took as part of their sentence.
In each case, they admitted to lying about their eligibility by either falsely claiming to be unemployed or under-reporting their income.
“We are always vigilant in enforcing the law, even when the case, sadly, involves public servants,” U.S. Attorney Richard S. Hartunian said in a statement. “The actions of these defendants undermine America’s trust in others serving the public and impedes the system in benefitting those truly in need.”