Men plead no contest to unemployment insurance fraud

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Two men have pleaded no contest to charges of obtaining money under false pretenses — filing for unemployment insurance benefits, while they were actually working and being paid for a job.

Joao M. Branco, 42, of Cumberland, pleaded no contest Tuesday at Providence Superior Court to one count of obtaining money under false pretenses. He collected more than $22,000 in unemployment insurance while he was employed with an Illinois company, according to the office of Rhode Island Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin. The State was prepared to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Branco didn’t tell the Department of Labor and Training he was getting a weekly paycheck between Nov. 29, 2009, and Aug. 9, 2014.

Branco was sentenced to ten years probation, and ordered to pay $22,015 in restitution to the state.

Derek L. Sebastiao, 34, of Warwick, also pleaded no contest Tuesday to one count of obtaining money under false pretenses. He collected more than $21,000 in unemployment insurance while he was employed with a Cumberland concrete company. The State planned to present evidence that Sebastiao filed for unemployment benefits between May 10, 2008 and March 3, 2012, despite earning a weekly paycheck.

Sebastiao was sentenced to five years probation and ordered to pay $21,720 in restitution.

“Both individuals were given ample opportunity to repay the money they fraudulently stole from the State’s unemployment insurance benefit fund prior to arrest and prosecution.  Their disregard of the law combined with their avoidance to repay the system has resulted in significant sentences that will stay on their record for a long time,” said Kilmartin.

“While some may see this type of crime as harming no one, the truth is that it harms the taxpayers and hard working individuals who pay into the system.  And, for that, we will aggressively prosecute individuals who steal from the taxpayers,” Kilmartin added.

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