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For Immediate Release:  
For Further Information Contact:
February 9, 2005

Office of The Attorney General
- Peter C. Harvey, Attorney General
Division of Criminal Justice
- Vaughn L. McKoy, Director

 

Rachel Sacharow
609-984-1936

 
 

Division of Criminal Justice Charges Essex County College Professor and Three Others with Illegally Collecting Unemployment Benefits

More Than $44,900 Allegedly Bilked From Unemployment Program

TRENTON – Division of Criminal Justice Director Vaughn L. McKoy announced that the Major Financial Crimes Bureau has charged four New Jersey residents with illegally collecting more than $44,900 in Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits. The prosecutions resulted from a cooperative investigative effort by the Department of Labor and Workforce Development (DLWD)and the Division of Criminal Justice.

According to Director McKoy, the Division of Criminal Justice - Major Financial Crimes Bureau obtained separate State Grand Jury indictments charging four individuals with theft by deception and unsworn falsification to authorities for bilking the New Jersey UI benefits program out of more than $44,900.

"The Division of Criminal Justice and the Department of Labor and Workforce Development have established investigative protocols which target deliberate and blatant attempts by individuals to steal thousands of dollars from the state unemployment fund," said Criminal Justice Director McKoy. “Make no mistake, we intend to investigate, prosecute, recoup and return dollars stolen from our unemployment compensation programs."

"The Department of Labor and Workforce Development uses a variety of methods to track down those who abuse the system and fraudulently obtain benefits," said Unemployment Insurance Director David Socolow. "These cases were first identified by DLWD investigators by cross-matching employer-submitted wage information against UI benefit payments; pursuing leads from employer protests of UI benefit charges; surveying employer payroll records; and responding to alerts from the staff of our local claims offices."

A Jan. 31 State Grand Jury indictment charged Robert T. George, 35, Boyden Parkway, Maplewood, Essex County, with theft by deception and three counts of unsworn falsification for bilking the UI benefits program out of $17,304. According to the indictment, George filed four separate UI benefits claims between June, 1998 and November, 2002. An investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice determined that, during the time he was collecting on these claims, George was working as an adjunct professor at Essex County College, yet not reporting the earnings to the DLWD.

A separate indictment filed on Jan. 25 charged Leon P. Retzlaff, 60, Franklin Street, Morristown, Morris County, with two counts of theft by deception and one count of unsworn falsification to authorities. Retzlaff filed for and collected on two separate claims for UI benefits - the first was from August, 1999 to April, 2000 and the second was from September, 2000 until March, 2001. An investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice determined that from October, through December, 1999, Retzlaff was employed as a xerox operator by Truckmann’s Inc., located in Morristown. The investigation further found, approximately a month after filing for his second claim, Retzlaff again began working as a xerox operator, this time for Basil G. Phillips t/a VIP Copy Center in Cedar Knolls, Morris County . By not reporting either of the claims to the DLWD, Retzlaff fraudulently collected more than $15,570.

A third indictment, also filed on Jan. 25, charged Otis L. Jones, 49, Valisburg Terrace, Irvington, Essex County, with theft by deception and unsworn falsification for allegedly bilking the UI benefits program out of $6,396. Jones filed for UI benefits in November, 1999. The week after he filed for these benefits, he began working as a crane operator for the Joseph B. Zamelsky Company in Newark, Essex County.

The Division of Criminal Justice filed a fourth State Grand Jury indictment on Jan. 25, charging Robert M. Polite, 54, Vincent Court, Essex County, with theft by deception and unsworn falsification. Polite filed a UI benefits claim in January, 2000, when he was temporary laid-off from his position as a machinist for P&K Pole Products, located in Newark. An investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice determined that In March, 2000, he was recalled back to work, but failed to report his re-employment to the DLWD. By not providing this information, Polite allegedly bilked $5,643 out of the UI benefits program.

Deputy Attorney General Ed Werner presented the George case. DAG Denise Grugan presented the Retzlaff, Jones and Polite cases. Retzlaff’s case will be referred to Morris County, and George’s, Jones’ and Polite’s cases will all be venued in Essex County.

Theft by deception is a third degree crime which carries a maximum penalty of up to five years in state prison and a fine of up to $15,000, while unsworn falsification to authorities is a fourth degree crime which calls for up to 18 months in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

An indictment is merely an accusation. The defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

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