Working NYC nurse mistakenly gets 300 letters from unemployment office

BROOKLYN, New York City (WABC) -- It's not uncommon to get a wrong letter in the mail every now and then, but one Brooklyn man said he knew something wasn't right when letters kept showing up to his address from New York's unemployment office.

"I said, 'Wait a second, something is really wrong,'" Joseph Podraza said.

He had been trying to get answers for the past eight months, ever since letters from the New York State Department of Labor starting showing up in his mailbox.

"I called 7 On Your Side," he said. "You're the only ones that responded."

The problem is that Podraza is not on unemployment. He's a working nurse.

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The letters included unemployment debit cards, and he didn't receive just a few -- but more than 300 pieces of mail.

Plus, none of the letters were addressed to him.

"We're not talking about a little chump change here," he said. "This is big money."

He said he called the police, his local congresswoman, and the state's fraud hotline, not just once but three times.

"It's a recorded message," he said. "I give my name, my address, my phone number, nobody calls me back."

The state returned 7 On Your Side's messages, however, telling us they only call people back if their Office of Special Investigations needs more information, and in this case, for Podraza to destroy the letters.

We sent the state a list of the names on the letters just in case.

"I did everything I knew how to do," Podraza said.

In a statement, New York State Department of Commissioner Roberta Reardon said the investigation is ongoing.

"Our Office of Special Investigations is aggressively deploying advanced resources, from artificial intelligence, to tools like ID.me, to fight this fraud," the statement read. "While our investigators are always one step ahead of stopping these criminals who are attempting to steal unemployment benefits that provide a lifeline to New Yorkers, we also need the public's help in reporting anything that looks suspicious. We are urging them to refer to our tips to protect themselves against fraud and to help us in our efforts to catch these fraudsters."

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State officials say they're going to continue investigating Podraza's case, and that the state has paid out $95 billion in unemployment benefits since the pandemic started.

It has identified more than 1 million fraudulent claims and says it has prevented people from stealing more than $12.3 billion in benefits.

The state said it encourages anyone who suspects fraud to report it and has launched new tools to protect your identity.

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