Former postal worker charged in Brooklyn court with lying to obtain $160K in workers’ comp
A complaint charging Joseph Penatello, a former driver for the U.S. Postal Service and a Brooklyn resident, with falsely claiming injuries to receive more than $160,000 in disability payments was unsealed Friday in federal Eastern District Court in Brooklyn.
“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,” said Richard Donoghue, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York. “Such disability scams are nothing less than stealing from our taxpayers and will not be ignored.”
“The federal Workers’ Compensation program was created to help those who are recovering from injuries obtained on the job,” stated USPS Inspector General Special Agent-in-Charge Matthew Modafferi. “When a Postal Service employee defrauds the Workers’ Compensation program, the special agents of the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General will work tirelessly with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.”
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 claimed that he was not earning any income, according to the Attorney General’s office.
However, on more than 20 occasions between 2014 and 2018, 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 allegedly told an undercover special agent that he runs flea markets five days a week and up to 12 hours per day.
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.
Penatello was scheduled to make his initial appearance Friday afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Vera M. Scanlon.
–Information courtesy of U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District
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