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4 ex-IRS workers arrested on fraud charges

Four former employees of the Internal Revenue Service in Holtsville have been arrested and charged with collecting unemployment insurance even though they had jobs, authorities said Wednesday.

The four employees all began work at the IRS in November 2010 and collected unemployment until they quit or were arrested this week, said Leo Rosales, spokesman for the state Department of Labor.

The four are charged with fourth-degree insurance fraud, a felony that carries a maximum penalty of 1 to 3 years in prison, said Robert Clifford, spokesman for the Suffolk district attorney's office.

The defendants are Christopher Najdek, 34, of Medford; Marcel O'Neal, 30, of Copiague; Michelle Oyer, 30, of Mastic; and Jennifer Connolly, 30, of Centereach, Clifford said. All were given desk appearance tickets to appear in court in October, he said.

"They were all hired [by the IRS] around the same time," Rosales said. Each committed the fraud on his or her own, he said. There was no sign they worked together.

None of the defendants could be reached for comment.

The Department of Labor's Office of Special Investigations uncovered the fraud by comparing federal payroll and unemployment insurance payment databases, Rosales said. To collect unemployment, people must affirm that they are out of work and trying to find a job.

Rosales said Najdek and O'Neal, who worked at the IRS until they were arrested, are accused of unlawfully collecting more than $13,000 each. Oyer is accused of taking $7,286 and Connolly is accused of taking $3,114, he said.

Clifford said O'Neal and Najdek gave statements to investigators admitting they collected unemployment even though they were employed.

The investigation is continuing, Clifford said.

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