A Rocky Point woman was one of seven U.S. postal workers who pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to collecting unemployment insurance benefits while working, state and federal officials said.
Angela Blazejewski, 35, got $11,542 in unemployment checks over a seven-month period before being caught in a "data mining" investigations by the Labor Department, state officials said.
She pleaded guilty to making false statements to obtain unemployment compensation for federal service from Feb. 28, 2011, to Sept. 25, 2011, state labor officials said. She was ordered to repay the government, said the U.S. attorney's office in Albany.
Blazejewski, who was fired from her postal job as a distribution associate, could not be reached for comment. It was not clear if she had an attorney.
The labor department's Office of Special Investigations Major Case Unit has been comparing federal and state wage records with the rolls of those getting unemployment benefits, state officials said. Investigators have been looking at groups of employees, from the IRS to U.S. Postal Service, and last year sent 771 cases to prosecutors, state labor officials said.
More than 60 USPS workers had collected more than $425,000 in unemployment insurance benefits by claiming they didn't have jobs or under reporting income, authorities said.
The pleas from Blazejewski, three New York City residents and three upstate residents are expected to be the first of several arrests and pleas from the data mining investigation of benefits fraud by postal workers, state and federal officials said.
"Unemployed New Yorkers and businesses are the real victims of scammers who take advantage of the unemployment insurance system," Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said in a news release.
Under the program to help the jobless, employers contribute to the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund. When the fund pays out because of a fraudulent claim, employers have to pay more, a cost often passed down to consumers and workers, officials said.
Last year, the state paid out almost $7.1 billion in total unemployment insurance benefits to 1.13 million people. At the height of the recession in 2009, the state paid out $9.2 billion in unemployment insurance payments to 1.2 million people, officials said.