Ex-Department of Labor employee gets 3 years in prison for fraudulent pandemic benefits scheme
A former state Department of Labor employee from Albany was sentenced on Thursday to 3 years in prison for engaging in a scheme to obtain more than $800,000 in unemployment insurance benefits.
Wendell Giles, 33, had previously pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to conspiracy to commit mail fraud. Giles admitted that he and another ex-employee, Carl J. DiVeglia III, abused their state computer system access to create and fraudulently approve false unemployment insurance applications in 2020 and 2021. This included applications for the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Prosecutors said Giles, employed as a senior employment security clerk, then recruited relatives, friends and others to submit false benefit applications over the phone to DiVeglia and lie in response to eligibility questions. Giles and DiVeglia then took a share of the benefits paid on the false claims.
Giles used his share on items such as a three-wheeled motorcycle. DiVeglia, a labor services representative, suggested in text messages that Giles get a vanity license plate for the new vehicle that said “TY PUA.” Giles understood that to mean “Thank You Pandemic Unemployment Assistance” and responded “lol,” prosecutors said.
Giles also must pay $826,530 in restitution and serve 2 years of post-release supervision. DiVeglia previously pleaded guilty and agreed to pay restitution.