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For Immediate Release:  
For Further Information Contact:
August 30, 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 Seven with Illegally Collecting Unemployment Benefits
More Than $85,100 Allegedly Bilked from Unemployment Program

TRENTON – Division of Criminal Justice Director Vaughn L. McKoy announced that the Major Financial Crimes Bureau has charged seven people with illegally collecting more than $85,100 in Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits. The prosecutions result 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 seven people with theft by deception and unsworn falsification to authorities for bilking the New Jersey UI benefits program out of more than $85,100.

"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 who attempt 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 those who would 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."

An Aug. 26 indictment charged Corey L. Rucks, 35, Smith Street, Newark, Essex County, with three counts of theft by deception and one count of unsworn falsification. Rucks filed three separate UI benefits claims - in November, 1999, January, 2001 and January, 2002. An investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice determined that Rucks worked as a “floor man” for Seton Company, T/A Radel Leather, located in Norristown, PA at the same time that he was collecting on the first two claims. The investigation further revealed that Rucks worked as a stockperson at Shop-Rite in Kearny, Hudson County, and was also employed at Best Provisions, Inc., located in Newark. By not reporting the employments to the DLWD, Rucks received more than $19,500 in UI benefits to which he was not entitled.

A second Aug. 26 indictment charged Guerlene Damas, 33, Canton Street, Elizabeth, Union County, with two counts of theft by deception and one count of unsworn falsification for allegedly bilking more than $9,500 from the UI benefits fund. The indictment alleges that Damas filed two UI benefits claims - one in July 2000 and one in July 2001. An investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice - Major Financial Crimes Bureau determined that during the time she was collecting on the first claim, Damas was employed as a medical assistant by Edison Foot & Ankle, located in Edison, Middlesex County. While collecting on the second claim, Damas earned wages as a medical/clerical assistant at both Garden State Medical, High Risk Pregnancy and Central Health Group, d/b/a NJ Health Associates.

In addition, the Division of Criminal Justice - Major Financial Crimes Bureau filed five State Grand Jury indictments on Aug. 18:

  • State v. Angel Torres, 33, Presidential Boulevard, Paterson, Passaic County. Charged with two counts each of theft by deception and forgery, and one count each of theft of identity and unsworn falsification. Torres filed twice for UI benefits, both times claiming that he had been employed, when, in fact, he had not. Torres filed his first UI benefits claim in April, 2001. The indictment alleges that Torres falsified employment information and submitted a fictitious W-2 form to the Department of Labor in order to obtain the benefits. Torres filed his second UI benefits claim in June, 2002 using a false name and social security number and identification card. An investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice determined that during part of the time that Torres claimed to be employed, he was actually incarcerated in the Passaic County Jail.
  • State v. Cecil Ward (aka Cecil A. Ward, Cecil B. Ward, Cecil C. Ward, Cecil T. Ward, Charles E. Ward and Charles Robert Ward), 64, Grape Street, London, England, formerly of Jersey City, Hudson County. Charged with theft by deception and unsworn falsification to authorities. Ward filed for UI benefits in September, 2001. An investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice determined that within days of filing the claim, Ward began working as a Senior Client Specialty Policy representative for AON Service Corp., based out of Chicago, IL. The indictment charged that Ward allegedly stole more than $20,960 in UI benefits by not reporting the earnings to the DLWD.
  • State v. Juan Mercado, 42, Coddington Street, Raritan, Middlesex County. Charged with theft by deception and two counts of unsworn falsification. Mercado filed three separate UI benefits claims - in August of 1999 and 2000, and 2001. The indictment alleges that Mercado misrepresented that he was unemployed and consequently stole more than $13,200 in UI benefits. An investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice determined that during the time he was collecting on the claims, Mercado was employed by at least five different employers.
  • State v. Robert C. Little, 39, Neshaminy Valley Drive, Ben Salem, Pa. Charged with theft by deception and unsworn falsification. Little filed for UI benefits in April, 2000 and September 2001. According to the indictment, while collecting on the first claim, Little was employed as an auto dealer by Ficarro’s Auto Body, Inc., located in Trenton, Mercer County. During the second claim, Little worked for at least three different employers - Heavenly Fish, LP, located in Ewing, Mercer County, Allentown Caging, Allentown, Monmouth County; and Robert Wood Johnson in Hamilton, Mercer County. Between the two claims, Little collected more than $7,900.
  • State v. Dinah Collins, 46, Ashley Road, South Charleston, South Carolina. Charged with theft by deception and unsworn falsification for bilking the UI benefits program out of more than $8,000. Collins filed for UI benefits in February, 2000 and collected on the claim until August of that year. An investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice determined that, from March to May, 2000, Collins was employed by A Quality Temp, located in Montville, Morris County, where she did accounting/collections. From May until August, Collins worked as a collection representative for Conseco Finance Vendor Services Corp., which operates out of Minnesota.

Deputy Attorney General Erin Callahan presented the Rucks and Damas cases. Rucks’ case has been referred to Essex County and Damas’ case will be venued in Union County. DAG Edward Werner presented the Ward, Little and Collins cases. Little’s case will be venued in Mercer County and Collins’ case has been referred to Essex County. DAG Mark Kurzawa presented the Mercado and Torres cases. Mercado’s case was sent to Middlesex County, and Torres’ case will be venued in Passaic 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.

A copy of this release and the related indictments can be found at www.njdcj.org.

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

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