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Rikers Corrections Officers charged with taking advantage of COVID to fake sick leave

November 14, 2022 Rob Abruzzese
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Three corrections officers from Rikers Island could find themselves locked away for up to 10 years if they are convicted on charges that they faked their sick leave to defraud the federal government out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Steven Cange, a 49-year-old from Brooklyn, Eduardo Trinidad, a 42-year-old from Yonkers, and Monica Coaxum, a 36-year-old from Harrison, all face up to 10 years in prison if convicted in federal court. The three corrections officers appeared on Thursday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Vera Scanlon.

“As alleged, in the midst of an ongoing staffing crisis at Rikers Island, the defendants defrauded New Yorkers by fraudulently obtaining their full salaries while taking over a year of sick leave,” said Breon Peace, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. “These correction officers abandoned their oath to protect inmates and put the safety of their fellow correction officers at risk.”

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Prosecutors have alleged that Cange, who is currently out sick and has been since March 2021, is faking symptoms of side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine, including a claim to have vertigo. Cange submitted more than 100 fraudulent medical notes that allegedly demonstrated he was in physical therapy for his issues, however, once documents were subpoenaed from those medical providers, it showed that Cange was not at the supposed medical appointments.

Prosecutors allegedly have evidence that shows Cange engaging in regular physical activities with no difficulty or symptoms of side effects from the COVID-19 vaccination. Cange allegedly obtained more than $160,000 in salary by faking his sick leave from March 2021 until the present.

Coaxum was charged with collecting more than $80,000 in her salary by being on sick leave from March 2021 until May 2022. Trinidad was charged with collecting more than $140,000 in salary from June 2021 to November 2022.

Prosecutors alleged that Coaxum is faking multiple injuries and that her nearly 50 medical notes stating that she had been attending medical appointments were faked. Prosecutors claim to have evidence that shows that Xoaxum was traveling and partying when she claimed to have been injured and at home. Coaxum has allegedly admitted to forging at least some of the 50 documents.

Trinidad actually went to his medical appointments, prosecutors admit, however, despite showing up to these appointments with a sling, a cane, and a walking boot, photographic evidence obtained by the U.S. Attorney’s office supposedly shows Trinidad during the same time period working on his home, traveling, and going bowling without the assistance of the sling, cane or walking boot.

All three face up to 10 years in prison if convicted of fraud charges.

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