49 arrested for insurance fraud

July 15, 2008 3:49:00 PM PDT
Forty-nine people have been arrested and charged with stealing $194,000 in unemployment insurance benefits from New York state. State Labor Commissioner Patricia Smith said Tuesday that the arrests were the result of a joint effort with law enforcement authorities in Westchester, Dutchess, Orange, Ulster, Rockland and Putnam counties. The individuals have been charged with attempting to defraud the state's UI program.

Smith says "As New Yorkers continue to reel from the effects of a nationwide downturn in the economy, it is nothing short of shameful to think that people would steal from a fund designed to help families put food on the table, gas in their cars and clothes on the backs of their children."

The suspects are charged with multiple crimes for attempting to defraud the unemployment insurance program while making up some 600 cases a year.

"It's getting harder to find a new job. People are on unemployment longer, so people that have found jobs should not be collecting benefits," adds Smith.

Jose Collazo and his twin brother Pedro from Yonkers are accused of taking over $10,000 combined in benefits.

While in Peekskill, Mary Pironti is charged with accepting $9,000 in benefits and Kim Jackson nearly $10,000.

"When people cheat the system, which is what these people have done. The rest of us bare the brunt of that selfish conduct," says Westchester D.A. Janet Difiore.

STORY BY: Eyewitness News reporter Tim Fleischer