SCHENECTADY – A Schenectady man was sentenced Tuesday to up to seven years in state prison for the theft of more than $50,000 in unemployment benefits, the state Inspector General’s Office said.
Eric Amoako-Attah, 33, of Schenectady, received a total term of 3.5 to 7 years in state prison on his guilty plea earlier to third-degree grand larceny.
Amoako-Attah admitted he stole the identities of at least four individuals to obtain the unemployment insurance payments, which he then used to fund a new apartment, expensive clothes and appliances, and a BMW, Inspector General’s officials said.
He was also ordered to pay more than $52,000 in restitution and forfeit more than $18,000, officials said.
“While the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way the world operates, criminals like this individual have discovered elaborate schemes to exploit the social safety nets that so many innocent individuals rely on to survive,” Inspector General Letizia Tagliafierro said in a statement. “As this case demonstrates, our office is committed to ensuring the integrity of these important social programs and holding those who steal from the public accountable for their actions.”
An investigation by the Office of Welfare Fraud Inspector General found that between July and October 2020, Amoako-Attah fraudulently filed online claims for unemployment benefits, including for pandemic-related benefits, using the names and information of four separate individuals, officials said. The benefits were then placed on EBT cards.
Investigators viewed video footage that showed Amoako-Attah at the locations identified on the EBT cards’ transaction history records, including Stewart’s, Walmart, Price Chopper, Michael Kohrs, and Laced Up Albany, officials said.
Amoako-Attah had been on parole in a previous case since March 11, 2020, and his parole officer informed investigators he was suspicious as Amoako-Attah had recently possessed sufficient cash to make a deposit on a new apartment, officials said.
Then, on a routine home visit, the officer saw several items purchased using the stolen funds, including Air Jordan sneakers, new winter jackets, a large television, new bedding, new kitchen appliances and a purse, officials said.
He then purchased a 2003 BMW after the cards were issued, officials said.
State inmate records show Amoako-Attah’s previous case concerned 2018 Schenectady convictions for first-degree criminal contempt and third-degree attempted criminal possession of a controlled substance. He received a sentence of 2 to 4 years in prison in that case.
The Schenectady County District Attorney’s Office prosecuted the case. State police made the arrest and the state Department of Labor, state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision and Schenectady County Department of Social Services investigated.