ALBANY, New York – Today, New York State Inspector General Lucy Lang, in partnership with the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York, announced a guilty plea for one man and the sentencing of another in two separate, yet nearly identical, unemployment insurance fraud schemes investigated by her office. The successful investigation and prosecution of these cases will result in more than $350,000 in restitution being paid to New York State.
In the first of the two cases, on Wednesday, July 5, 2023, Thomas Brace (a/k/a “Justice”), age 62, of Altoona, PA, pled guilty to conspiring to defraud the New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL) by providing a previously convicted co-defendant with the personal identifying information of seven victims, which were then used to file false unemployment insurance claims. These 7 fraudulent applications resulted in the unlawful payment of $299,553 in NYSDOL unemployment insurance benefits, which were funded in part with federal COVID-19 pandemic related monies. As part of his plea, Brace agreed to make full restitution to New York State of the nearly $300,000 in ill-gotten gains, and faces a maximum of 20 years in prison, an additional fine of up to $250,000, and a term of supervised release of up to 3 years when he is sentenced October 23.
The following day, on Thursday, July 6, 2023, Taquan Parker, age 26, of Rensselaer, was sentenced to a term of 13 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $60,132 in restitution to the State of New York, following his previously entered plea of guilty to conspiracy and mail fraud charges related to unemployment insurance fraud. Similar to Thomas Brace, Parker provided a co-conspirator with the personal identifying information of others which were then used to file false claims with the NYSDOL. As a result of these two false claims, NYSDOL paid out $60,132 in fraudulent unemployment insurance benefits.
“Unemployment benefits, which deliver critical support to workers, their families, and their communities, provide an essential lifeline to so many New Yorkers faced with pandemic related joblessness,” said IG Lang. “Attempts such as those by these defendants and their co-conspirators to undermine those systems by fraud will not be tolerated by this office or any of the law enforcement partners with whom we worked hand-in-hand to achieve these tremendous results. I am grateful to our partners and my team for their tirelessness in protecting our fellow New Yorkers and the integrity of the unemployment insurance system.”
These matters were investigated by Attorney-In-Charge for Welfare Kristin Abreu, Managing Investigator for Welfare Jason Fazio, and Senior Auditor Katherine Rizzo of the Offices of the Inspector General, in partnership with United States Department of Homeland Security, the United States Postal Inspection Service, the United States Department of Labor Office of the Inspector General, and the Albany and Schenectady County Departments of Social Services. Both cases were prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Joshua R. Rosenthal and Joseph S. Hartunian.