Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo speaks at Teamsters Local 282 on...

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo speaks at Teamsters Local 282 on Feb. 8, 2018 in Lake Success. Credit: Howard Schnapp

New York State recovered a record $4.5 million of fraudulently obtained unemployment insurance benefits in 2017, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office said Tuesday.

Nassau and Suffolk counties had some of the largest recoveries. Suffolk ranked sixth in the state, with $288,710 recovered. Nassau ranked 13th with $117,289. Erie led all counties, with $477,162 recouped. Statistics for the previous year were not immediately available, a Labor Department spokesman said.

The department’s Office of Special Investigations conducted probes to determine whether jobless benefit claims were fraudulent. Once fraud is detected, the cases are referred to local law enforcement, the news release said.

On Long Island, both local district attorney’s offices assisted in the recovery.

“Prosecuting these false claims not only protects our taxpayers, but it ensures that every dollar spent is going to residents who truly need these services,” said Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy Sini in the statement released by Cuomo’s office.

Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas said in a separate statement her office has recovered about a half million dollars in unemployment money over the past 5 years and has obtained more than 35 criminal convictions of individuals who collected unemployment benefits they weren’t entitled to.

“We will continue this important state-county partnership to combat this type of crime in the future,” she said.

The penalties for unemployment insurance fraud include having to repay the benefits, not being able to get benefits in the future, fines, criminal prosecution and prison, according to the Labor Department.

Eligible unemployed workers who have lost a job through no fault of their own can qualify for up to 26 weeks of jobless benefits at up to $435 a week.

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