By Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin
While our elected leaders in Washington continue to battle over extending unemployment insurance benefits for the long-term unemployed, it is our responsibility on the state level to ensure that these benefits are being used for the intended purpose: to help those in need, not to line the pockets of corrupt public employees and others looking to defraud the system.
Through a partnership with the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training, my office has hired a designated prosecutor to handle unemployment insurance fraud cases, worker’s compensation fraud, prevailing wage violations and labor standards fraud cases. This is in addition to the aggressive prosecution of other individuals who defraud the state’s social service programs, including child care assistance and Medicaid.
In recent weeks, the Office successfully prosecuted several individuals who were charged with unemployment insurance fraud, including an individual who worked at the Department of Labor and Training.
Ruth Rosa-Rios, of Providence, pled nolo contendere in Superior Court to accessing a computer for fraudulent purposes, obtaining money under false pretense and conspiracy in a scheme were she illegally secured unemployment benefits of more than $25,000 for her husband, to which he was not entitled. Rosa-Rios was sentenced to 10 years, with one year to serve on home confinement and the remainder suspended with probation, and was ordered to pay full restitution to the state.
Todd J. Salvas of Woonsocket also recently pled nolo contendere to unemployment insurance fraud and was sentenced to five years probation and ordered to pay full restitution to the State of Rhode Island in the amount of $13,485.
These are just a couple of the numerous unemployment insurance fraud cases that my office has prosecuted in the last several months, returning tens of thousands of dollars to the state. Manipulating the system does not just hurt the employers and workers who play by the rules – ultimately, it hurts our economy too. Unemployment insurance is a critical resource for people out of work, and we must ensure that it is preserved for the people who do deserve it.
It’s not just unemployment insurance fraud cases that my office is prosecuting. I recently announced that former ACI guard Rosemary Hernandez of Providence pled nolo contendere to welfare fraud. While employed at the ACI, Hernandez created fraudulent pay stubs and submitted those stubs to the Department of Human Services in order to received child care assistance benefits – which she was not entitled to – of approximately $39,000. She was sentenced to five years suspended with probation and ordered to pay full restitution in the amount of $39,000 and a $3,000 fine.
Last year, the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit in my office recovered in excess of $8 million for the state’s Medicaid budget. Medicaid is one of Rhode Island’s most expensive programs and cannot afford to be plagued with fraud, waste and abuse. From big pharma looking to pocket tens of millions of dollars in profits through the off-label marketing of drugs to individual caregivers who defraud the system a few hundred dollars at a time, each must be held accountable.
Fraud and abuse in our social service programs restricts funds for those who truly need assistance and threatens the long term viability of the program. The bottom line is that defrauding the system is stealing from the taxpayers, it is illegal and it will not be tolerated by my office.