Jeanette Rodriguez, 42, of Mount Laurel, was charged with official misconduct (2nd degree), computer theft (2nd degree), and theft by deception (3rd degree).
Between June 20, 2013 and Sept. 18, 2013, Rodriguez allegedly used her position as an unemployment insurance clerk to access the Department of Labor’s computers and fraudulently redirect a total of $21,055 in unemployment benefits from six different claims into her personal bank account. She was fired in the fall of 2013 after the Department of Labor discovered the alleged thefts.
“In a span of just three months, this state clerk allegedly stole a very large sum of money that was intended to be used to assist New Jersey workers who had lost their jobs,” Hoffman said. “This was a very serious breach of trust.”
“We work closely with other governmental agencies to ensure that employees who steal public funds are strictly prosecuted for their crimes,” Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice said. “We urge anyone with information about suspected thefts of government funds or property to alert the Division of Criminal Justice.”
It is alleged that, in each case in which she diverted funds, Rodriguez temporarily entered her bank account information in the department’s computer system in place of the account information of an actual worker who filed an unemployment claim. In most instances, she allegedly diverted benefits that should have gone to the worker. However, in at least one instance, the worker had found employment but Rodriguez allegedly reactivated the claim in order to steal benefits.
“Protecting the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund from fraudsters, whether they come from outside or inside the system, has been a priority of this administration,” Department of Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner Harold J. Wirths said. “This case is just one more example of our resolve to pursue and prosecute anyone who would pilfer from a very important safety net established for New Jersey workers.”
The second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison, including five years of parole ineligibility, and a $150,000 fine.
The third-degree charge carries a sentence of three to five years in state prison, including two years of parole ineligibility, and a $15,000 fine.
Hoffman and Honig noted that the Division of Criminal Justice has established a toll-free Corruption Tipline 1-866-TIPS-4CJ for the public to confidentially report corruption, financial crime and other illegal activities. The public also can log on to the Division’s web page at www.njdcj.org to report suspected wrongdoing confidentially.