Ex-state employee pleads guilty to $300K+ in unemployment fraud

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Green “fraud” key on keyboard. (GotCredit / Flickr / CC BY 2.0)

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — According to the Department of Justice (DOJ), Tramaine Pope, 33, of the Bronx pleaded guilty on Tuesday to obtaining $314,168 through fraud. She pleaded to abusing her position as a senior employment security clerk at the Department of Labor (DOL) to submit, approve, and cash in on 20 false unemployment insurance applications.

DOJ says the funds Pope stole included benefits from federal pandemic unemployment assistance. Those programs were meant for New Yorkers who are out of work because of COVID.

Acting U.S. Attorney Antoinette T. Bacon said of the matter: “Pope violated the trust of her fellow New Yorkers during a global public health crisis that left so many without work. She was tasked with helping others at a time of substantial need, but instead exploited her position for personal gain.”

Pope’s plea means she admitted to the criminal activity. She reportedly received lists of names and personal identifying information from another individual, and used her DOL access to process fraudulent claims using that information.

DOL Commissioner Roberta Reardon said in a written statement, “There is no excuse for stealing from others, especially when a person in place of trust abuses their position to knowingly commit fraud.”

DOJ says she betrayed the public trust by stealing public funds. Now, she’s agreed to repay $314,168 to the state. Pope also faces up to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and up to 3 years of parole when released. Sentencing is scheduled for January 21.

If you get a monetary determination letter from DOL without applying for unemployment, report it to DOL, the FTC, Social Security, and local police. Change your login credentials for accounts like banks, and put a fraud alert on your credit accounts through a credit bureau. DOL shuts down a fraudulent claim once a report is filed.

Officials declined to speak on specifics of investigations or share details about cases like this. Doing so, they warn, might provide a roadmap for other fraudsters. Throughout the pandemic, DOL reportedly paid out over $100 billion in benefits to over 4.7 million New Yorkers. The state has also blocked over a million fraudulent claims valued at over $12.3 billion.

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