Bruce Garrett, 63, of Vineland, was found guilty yesterday afternoon by a Cumberland County jury of third-degree theft by deception following a trial before Superior Court Judge Cristen P. D’Arrigo. Third-degree crimes carry a potential sentence of three to five years in state prison and a fine of up to $15,000. Judge D’Arrigo scheduled sentencing for Garrett for May 29.
Deputy Attorneys General Brian Carney and John Paone tried the case for the Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau. The lead investigator was Detective Lynn Fitzgerald.
The state presented testimony and evidence at trial that from March 26, 2009 through Sept. 21, 2009, Garrett collected $15,768 in unemployment benefits while serving a sentence for driving while intoxicated in the Cumberland County Jail. In order to continue to receive unemployment benefits, a recipient must certify, among other things, that he or she is available to work. Garrett continued to receive benefits while in jail because fraudulent certifications were submitted for him via the Internet each week, or by phone in a couple of instances, that he was “available to go to work immediately,” when in fact he was in jail and ineligible to receive benefits.
The Garrett case was among a number of cases referred to the Attorney General’s Office by the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development. The Department of Labor and Workforce Development, under the leadership of Commissioner Harold J. Wirths, has been cracking down on unemployment insurance fraud since 2011, saving the New Jersey Unemployment Trust Fund an estimated $550 million to date. Among the many anti-fraud practices and procedures adopted by the department was a routine of cross-checking of state unemployment insurance lists against rosters of county jail inmates.
Acting Attorney General Hoffman thanked the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development for its referral and valuable assistance in the investigation.