A former Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training employee was sentenced in federal court for his involvement in an unemployment insurance fraud scheme.
Ambulai R. Sheku, 37, of Providence, a former senior employment interviewer at the DLT was sentenced on Monday in U.S. District Court in Providence on mail fraud, theft of government money and accessing a protected computer to commit fraud resulting in a $508,691 loss to the DLT.
Sheku was sentenced by Judge William E. Smith to nearly two years in federal prison and three years supervised release after finishing his prison term. He also must pay $486, 466 in restitution.
“Sheku’s crimes were a selfish betrayal of our customers — the claimants who rely on benefits and the 33,000 Rhode Island employers that pay for UI — of the public, and of us, his DLT teammates, peers, and supervisors,” DLT Spokesman Michael Healey said.
Between June 2009 and February 2015, Sheku accessed DLT computers and files to collect unemployment benefits for himself and others by changing the mailing address of actual unemployment insurance beneficiaries causing the banks to forward the unemployment benefits to he and others who were not supposed to receive them.
The DLT found evidence of Sheku’s scheme in February 2015. The department immediately fired Sheku and referred the case to the Rhode Island State Police, according to the DLT. State police along with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, U.S. Dept. of Labor and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service investigated Sheku’s actions. Assistant U.S. Attorney Terrence P. Donnelly prosecuted the case.
“Although today Sheku has received a much-warranted jail sentence for his crimes, his brazen and illegal manipulation of procedures caused DLT to reassess and tighten all security measures that were in place in the call center, especially those related to claims filing and payment procedures,” Healy said in a statement.
Sheku is not the only DLT employee caught benefiting from fraudulent activity at the DLT. Ruth Rosa-Rios was also caught stealing unemployment money. Rosa-Rios, a former DLT employee, who determined which applicants qualified for benefits, stole $25,000 in unemployment insurance money, even though she nor her husband qualified for benefits meant for Rhode Islanders who lose their jobs.