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3 former Rikers Island prison guards plead guilty to sick-leave scam

March 8, 2023 Rob Abruzzese
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Three former New York City correction officers, Eduardo Trinidad, Steven Cange, and Monica Coaxum, pleaded guilty to fraud in federal court on Tuesday for collecting their salaries while they had taken sick leave even though they were able to work, and submitted fake medical notes to support their claims.

“The defendants have admitted stealing taxpayer funds by collecting their full salaries while falsely claiming they were too sick to work,” said U.S. Attorney Breon Peace.

“Sick leave abuse is a plague on the New York City Department of Correction that puts fellow officers and inmates at risk during the ongoing staffing crisis in the jails,” Peace said. “This office is working with our federal and local law enforcement partners to identify those who exploit the sick leave policy and hold them accountable.”

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Eduardo Trinidad, 42, pleaded guilty in federal court in Brooklyn to fraudulently obtaining over $119,000 in salary from June 2021 to Oct. 2022. He claimed that he was unable to work due to an injury, but surveillance footage showed him performing physical activities without assistance. Trinidad performed home improvement work, went bowling, and traveled abroad during his supposed sick leave period. When sentenced, he faces a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment.

Steven Cange, a 49-year-old from Brooklyn, pleaded guilty on Feb. 15, 2023, to fraudulently obtaining more than $139,000 in salary from March 2021 to Nov. 2022. He submitted over 100 fraudulent medical notes to DOC, claiming that he was at physical therapy or other medical appointments. However, records from these providers showed that Cange was not actually at these appointments. Additionally, law enforcement observed him engaging in normal life activities without difficulty. Cange also faces a maximum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment.

Monica Coaxum, 36, pleaded guilty on Feb. 27, 2023, to fraudulently obtaining over $80,000 in salary from March 2021 to April 2022. Coaxum claimed to suffer from multiple injuries and submitted nearly 50 fraudulent medical notes to DOC. However, evidence collected by investigators showed that she was able to work. During her sick leave, Coaxum was observed attending parties and traveling despite claiming to be injured and at home. She also faces a maximum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment.

These former correction officers were arrested in Nov. 2022 and resigned from the DOC in Jan. 2023. Their guilty pleas were heard before U.S. Magistrate Judge Vera M. Scanlon.

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