Long Island Woman Pleads Guilty to Prison-Based Unemployment Insurance Fraud
ALBANY, NEW YORK – Briana Garland, age 29, of Uniondale, New York, pled guilty today to conspiring with a New York State prisoner to obtain unemployment insurance benefits by fraud. Garland’s plea is the fourth and final plea in related cases stemming from pandemic-related schemes involving prisoners at the Bare Hill Correctional Facility in Malone, New York.
The announcement was made by United States Attorney Carla B. Freedman; Jonathan Mellone, Special Agent in Charge, New York Region, U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General (USDOL-OIG); Matthew Scarpino, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Buffalo Field Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); Ketty Larco-Ward, Inspector in Charge of the Boston Division of the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS); Anthony J. Annucci, Acting Commissioner of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (NYSDOCCS); and Roberta Reardon, Commissioner of the New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL).
In pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud, Garland admitted to submitting a false unemployment insurance claim to NYSDOL in the name of Bare Hill inmate Reginald Thornton. Prisoners were not eligible to receive unemployment insurance benefits. Garland agreed to pay restitution in the amount of $19,580 to the State of New York.
United States Attorney Carla B. Freedman stated: “These state prisoners were already incarcerated for other, serious crimes, and now they will serve more time for committing fraudulent schemes from behind bars. Thanks to the work of our federal and state partners, Briana Garland and the other defendants will not escape accountability for defrauding a program intended to help out-of-work New Yorkers put food on the table and pay their bills in the midst of a global public health crisis.”
USDOL-OIG Special Agent in Charge Jonathan Mellone stated: “Briana Garland and her coconspirators engaged in a scheme to defraud the New York State Department of Labor by filing for unemployment insurance (UI) benefits in the names of incarcerated individuals who were not entitled to such benefits. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to protect the integrity of the UI system from those who exploit these benefit programs.”
HSI Acting Special Agent in Charge Matthew Scarpino stated: “It is despicable that during such a difficult financial time in our history that Garland would attempt to fraudulently claim benefits meant for individuals who are struggling to find legitimate work during a pandemic. Her crimes were further exacerbated by her conspiring with a known, incarcerated criminal. HSI will continue to identify and hold accountable those that steal from the government and the pockets of American taxpayers.”
USPIS Inspector in Charge Ketty Larco-Ward stated: “Whenever criminals use the U.S. Mail to further pad their pockets at the expense of hard-working Americans, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service will be there to bring them to justice. Today’s plea highlights how proud we are of our law enforcement partnerships, and how we will continue to stand ready to assist in thwarting crimes like these.”
Garland’s mail fraud conviction carries a maximum term of 20 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and a term of supervised release of up to 3 years. She is scheduled to be sentenced on December 8, 2022 by Chief United States District Judge Glenn T. Suddaby. A defendant’s sentence is imposed by a judge based on the particular statute the defendant is charged with violating, the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, and other factors.
Thornton previously pled guilty to participating in two prison-based unemployment insurance fraud conspiracies and was sentenced to 51 months in federal prison, to be served after his state prison term ends. Two other defendants, Rhasha Wright and Bare Hill inmate Lord Paulin, previously pled guilty to conspiring with Thornton to obtain unemployment insurance benefits in the names of Paulin and another inmate. Paulin was sentenced to 19 months in federal prison, to be served after his state sentence ends. Wright is awaiting sentencing.
New York State Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon said: “The New York State Department of Labor is committed to fighting unemployment fraud, because every dollar stolen is a dollar taken away from a law-abiding New Yorker who needs it. This case was uncovered through our ongoing partnership with the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, and I’m grateful to the United States Department of Justice for seeing that those who commit fraud are held accountable.”
The cases were investigated by USDOL-OIG, HSI, USPIS, and the Offices of Special Investigations of NYSDOCCS and NYSDOL. The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys John T. Chisholm and Joshua R. Rosenthal.
On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with agencies across government to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud. The Task Force bolsters efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies tasked with administering relief programs to prevent fraud by, among other methods, augmenting and incorporating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their schemes, and sharing and harnessing information and insights gained from prior enforcement efforts. For more information on the Department’s response to the pandemic, please visit https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus.
Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.