ALBANY — A former Gansevoort resident admitted Tuesday to his role in a money-laundering conspiracy that covered up tens of thousands of dollars in COVID-era unemployment insurance fraud.
Federal prosecutors said Christopher L. Vandermark, 57, admitted responsibility for $13,734 in benefits laundered through a bank account. He faces up to 20 years in prison, a fine of up to $500,000 and three years of supervised release.
And he’s agreed to make restitution to the affected states.
The case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Social Security Administration and the New York State Comptroller’s Office.
Prosecutors said Tuesday that:
- Vandermark admitted to corresponding via text messages with someone representing themselves as a North Carolina woman. She directed him to provide her with the details of his existing accounts and to open new accounts in multiple financial institutions. He lived in Gansevoort at the time.
- From June 2020 to April 2021, those accounts received more than $88,000 in fraudulent unemployment benefits from six states.
- Vandermark purchased hundreds of gift cards with those benefits, photographed the identifying numbers on the cards and sent the photos to the woman so she could sell them online.
- He admitted receiving multiple warnings from financial institutions that he was furthering a fraud scheme.
- On April 15, 2021, a state investigator and a federal investigator interviewed him at his home regarding roughly $37,000 in jobless benefits transferred to his account at a local bank; he falsely denied holding the account or receiving the funds.
- After the interview, Vandermark set up yet another account and received $13,734 worth of benefits through it.
He is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 27, 2022, by Senior United States District Judge Gary L. Sharpe. He is free until then.
Prosecutors said investigators determined the co-conspirator identified herself to Vandermark as a woman from North Carolina. They would not comment on any other details they may have determined about the co-conspirator, or say whether additional arrests may be made.
The U.S. Department of Justice in May 2021 set up the multi-agency COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to better prevent and prosecute pandemic-related fraud. Anyone with information about attempted fraud can report it through the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud hotline at 866-720-5721 or online at https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form