Bellhop, Don’t Forget The Bags

Unemployment claim form on an office table.

Oscar Abreu, Rafael Grullon and Aldo Palomino Jr. had a comfortable set up committing fraud during the day and counting the money in their hotel room at night. Until the ringleader forgot to move incriminating evidence when she was forced to change rooms at the Yonkers hotel.

Abreu, Grullon and Palomino allegedly accepted cash bribe payments to intercept and steal mail in their capacity as U.S. postal workers. Per the U.S. complaint, the ringleader, Yohauris Rodriguez Hernandez had been filing bogus unemployment benefit claims in the names of hundreds of people. The ring filed more than 500 unemployment-benefit claims worth more than $16 million with payouts totaling over $3 million.

When payouts from the Department of Labor were then mailed to the unsuspecting people, the mail carriers intercepted them along their routes. All transactions were kept on lined paper notebooks containing addresses where the mail had been stolen and who stole what.

The scheme fell apart when the team asked to extend their stay in the room but were told it was already booked. After the team checked into another room they realized they had forgotten the stolen mail and transaction notebooks in their old room. By the time they went back to the old room, the police had been called. If convicted, hopefully the beds are as comfortable in jail as they were in the hotel.

Kudos to the cleaning staff at the hotel for realizing that the material left behind by Hernandez, Abreau, Grullon and Palomino was suspected fraud and not trash to throwaway.

Today’s Fraud of the Day is based on an article, “$16M COVID benefits scheme uncovered after Queens postal workers leave heaps of stolen mail in hotel room” published by the NY Post.

Three Queens USPS workers have been charged as a result of a months-long, multimillion dollar unemployment theft scheme linked to stealing COVID-19 benefits in 2020, federal prosecutors said Monday.

This comes after over 700 pieces of stolen state Department of Labor mail were found in an abandoned Yonkers hotel room that December.

According to the criminal complaints, Oscar Abreu, Rafael Grullon and Aldo Palomino Jr. accepted cash bribe payments to intercept and steal mail in their capacity as postal workers, sent by the NYS DOL to specific addresses along their assigned postal routes.

Initially, Rodriguez Hernandez initially approached Abreu and offered $200 for every NYS DOL envelope he intercepted and turned over, but federal prosecutors said that offer increased to $500.

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Larry Benson, Senior Director of Strategic Alliances, LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Government

Larry Benson is responsible for developing strategic partnerships and solutions for the government vertical. His expertise focuses on how government programs are defrauded by criminal groups, and the approaches necessary to prevent them from succeeding.

Mr. Benson has 30 years of experience in sales and business development. Before joining LexisNexis® Risk Solutions, he spent 12 years founding and managing two software technology startups. During the 1990s he spent 10 years as a Regional Director helping to grow a New England-based technology company from 300 employees to 7,000. He started his career with Martin Marietta Aerospace working on laser guided weapons and day/night vision systems.

A sought-after speaker and accomplished writer, Mr. Benson is the principal author of “Fraud of the Day,” a website dedicated to educating government officials about how criminals are defrauding government programs. He has co-authored WTF? Where’s the Fraud? How to Unmask and Stop Identity Fraud’s Drain on Our Government, and Data Personified, How Fraud is Changing the Meaning of Identity.

Benson holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Albright College, and earned two graduate degrees – a Master of Business Administration from Florida Institute of Technology, and a Master of Science in Engineering from Lehigh University.