|TRENTON – Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced that a former unemployment insurance clerk for the State Department of Labor and Workforce Development pleaded guilty today to stealing $18,825 in unemployment benefits by using her access to the department’s computer system to redirect benefits from unemployment claims to her own bank account.
Patricia Garcia, 31, of Old Bridge (formerly of North Bergen), pleaded guilty to third-degree theft by deception before Superior Court Judge Mark J. Fleming in Mercer County. Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that she be sentenced to 364 days in the county jail and a term of probation. She must pay restitution of $18,825 and will be permanently barred from public employment in New Jersey. Garcia is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 21.
Deputy Attorney General Anthony P. Torntore took the guilty plea for the Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau. The charge was result of an investigation by the New Jersey Department of Labor-Office of Internal Audit and the Division of Criminal Justice.
In pleading guilty, Garcia admitted that, between Dec. 19, 2011 and Jan. 27, 2012, she used her position as an unemployment insurance clerk to access the Department of Labor’s computers and fraudulently redirect a total of $18,825 in unemployment benefits from four different claims into her personal bank account. Three of the claims should have been discontinued, either because the individual had found work or because the claim had been disqualified or had not been re-certified for benefits. However, Garcia secretly continued or reactivated the claims in order to steal benefits by redirecting them to her bank account. The fourth unemployment insurance claim was filed by Garcia in the name of an individual who had been collecting on a pending disability insurance claim.
The investigation was conducted for the Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau by Deputy Attorney General Torntore and Detective Lynn Fitzgerald. The investigation was conducted for the New Jersey Department of Labor-Office of Internal Audit by Fraud Investigators Natalie Taylor and John Sudia.
Acting Attorney General Hoffman and Director Honig noted that the Division of Criminal Justice has established a toll-free Corruption Tipline 1-866-TIPS-4CJ for the public to confidentially report corruption, financial crime and other illegal activities. The public also can log on to the Division’s web page at www.njdcj.org to report suspected wrongdoing confidentially.