ALBANY, NEW YORK – Former New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL) employee Wendell Giles, 52, of Albany, pleaded guilty today to mail fraud and aggravated identity theft charges.
The announcement was made by United States Attorney Carla B. Freedman; Janeen DiGuiseppi, Special Agent in Charge of the Albany Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); and Jonathan Mellone, Special Agent in Charge, New York Region, US Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General (USDOL-OIG).
As part of the guilty plea, Giles admitted that he and another former NYSDOL employee, Carl J. DiVeglia III, abused access to their state computer systems to create and approve false unemployment insurance (UI) applications. in 2020 and 2021, including applications for the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program (PUA).
Giles recruited relatives, friends and friends of friends to submit false benefit applications over the phone to DiVeglia after Giles instructed them to lie in response to eligibility questions. Giles and DiVeglia then received a portion of the benefits paid by the NYSDOL for the false claims. Giles used his share to enrich himself, including buying a three-wheeled motorcycle. In the text messages, DiVeglia suggested a vanity license plate for Giles’ new vehicle, “TY PUA,” which Giles took to mean “Thanks Pandemic Unemployment Relief.” Giles replied, “Lol.” Giles was hired as a Senior Employment Security Officer and DiVeglia as an Employment Services Representative.
Giles admitted responsibility for $826,530 in losses from pandemic-related UI benefit programs administered by the state. He has agreed to pay full restitution to the NYSDOL. DiVeglia previously pleaded guilty to related charges and also agreed to pay restitution.
The mail fraud conviction carries a maximum prison term of 20 years, a fine of up to $250,000, and a term of supervised release of up to 3 years. The felony identity theft conviction carries a mandatory sentence of 2 years in prison, which will run concurrently with any other sentence. Giles is scheduled to be sentenced on January 5, 2023 by Chief United States District Judge Glenn T. Suddaby. A defendant’s sentence is imposed by a judge based on the specific statutes the defendant is accused of violating, the US Sentencing Guidelines, and other factors.
This case was investigated by the FBI and USDOL-OIG, with assistance from NYSDOL’s Office of Special Investigations, and is being prosecuted by Assistant US Attorneys John T. Chisholm and Joshua R. Rosenthal.
On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General created the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with agencies across the government to increase efforts to combat and prevent fraud related to the pandemic. The Task Force strengthens efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies charged with administering assistance programs to prevent fraud by, among other methods, augmenting and incorporating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques to detect fraudulent actors and their schemes, as well as sharing and leveraging information and knowledge gained from previous enforcement efforts. For more information on the Department’s response to the pandemic, please visit https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus.
Anyone with information about claims of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Justice Department’s National Disaster Fraud Center (NCDF) hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the Complaint Form at NCDF Web at: https://www .justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.