Queens District Attorney Richard Brown announced on March 20 that 18 individuals who allegedly collected more than $340,000 in unemployment benefits illegally have been formally charged with first- and second-degree larceny and first-degree falsifying business records.
Steven Colon of Ridgewood, Carol Leonard of Springfield Gardens, Alfonso Vaca of Woodhaven, Anthony Rossi of Brooklyn — formerly of Belle Harbor — and Fernando Perez of East Elmhurst allegedly received the greatest amounts of overpayments, ranging from $58,000 to $21,000.
According to the DA’s office, the defendants falsified documents by applying for and receiving unemployment benefits when they were in fact employed and not entitled to receive such benefits.
The 18 defendants charged in the case were arrested over the last four months following an investigation by the New York State Department of Labor, which referred the case to Brown’s office for further investigation and prosecution.
“The defendants are accused of trying to scam the system by collecting unemployment benefits to which they were not entitled because they were, in fact, employed,” Brown said in a written statement. “Unemployment benefits are a vital lifeline to those who lose their jobs and fraudulent collection of such benefits cannot be tolerated.”
Department of Labor Commissioner Peter Rivera echoed the district attorney’s concerns.
“Plain and simple, committing unemployment insurance fraud by collecting benefits while working is an act that is illegal and will not be tolerated in this state,” he said. “It hurts all of New Yorkers by casting doubt on those taxpayers, small businesses and families who actually need these benefits to survive and put food on the table when they’re laid off of no fault of their own.”
Each defendant was released without bail.