A former motor vehicle operator for the United States Postal Service (USPS) has been charged with making false statements to obtain federal employees’ disability compensation, according to a complaint unsealed in federal court in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Joseph Penatello was arrested and expected to make his initial appearance August 31 before United States Magistrate Judge Vera M. Scanlon.
Richard P. Donoghue, United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Matthew Modafferi, special agent-in-charge for the United States Postal Service and Office of the Inspector General (USPS-OIG), announced the arrest.
“As alleged, the defendant was employed at flea markets at the same time he falsely claimed to be incapable of working for the postal service due to a medical condition,” Donoghue stated in a press release issued by the United States Department of Justice. “Such disability scams are nothing less than stealing from our taxpayers and will not be ignored.”
According to the complaint, Penatello began receiving workers’ compensation benefits in 2001 after he sustained a neck and back injury while working for the USPS. In order to continue receiving those benefits, between March 2014 and April 2018, Penatello submitted documents to the Department of Labor falsely claiming that he was totally disabled and unable to work due to his medical condition.
Penatello also falsely claimed that he was not earning any income. However, on more than 20 occasions between 2014 and 2018, USPS-OIG special agents video-recorded him working as an organizer at flea markets in Brooklyn and Manhattan. The video also showed Penatello engaging in strenuous activities, such as carrying heavy objects, standing for long periods of time and driving a motor vehicle.
On one occasion, Penatello told an undercover special agent that he runs flea markets five days per week and up to 12 hours per day. During the relevant time period, Penatello received more than $160,000 in workers’ compensation benefits.
The charges in the complaint are allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty. If convicted, the defendant faces a statutory maximum of five years’ imprisonment.
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s General Crimes Section. Assistant United States Attorney Erin Reid is in charge of the prosecution.
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