ALBANY - A former employee with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development in Albany has been sentenced to jail time in a scheme to get time off work for a fake cancer diagnosis, authorities said.
Timothy J. Oravec, 60, who worked out of HUD's Albany office and lived in Poughkeepsie, pleaded guilty to wire fraud earlier and was sentenced this past week to four months in jail and three years of supervision.
Oravec was arrested in April 2018, accused of faking the cancer diagnosis in 2013 to get special leave, including take sick time donations from fellow employees, federal prosecutors said.
He did so by faking a number of letters that purported to be from medical providers at two facilities, including the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, and then used those to qualify for the department's leave transfer program, he admitted in his plea. He then solicited and received sick leave donations from his coworkers. He also faked other notes to justify his sick time, he admitted.
His appeal to co-workers included "his shameless attempts to play on his coworkers' sympathy by sending out a picture of himself purportedly showing the effects of chemotherapy and expressing dismay that he had not been donated even more leave," Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael D. Gadarian wrote ahead of Oravec's sentencing.
Oravec received more than $24,000 in illegally obtained "unrecovered proceeds," according to his plea.
Ahead of his sentencing, Oravec attorney Timothy Austin argued his client is actually a multiple-time survivor of cancer, cancer in his thyroid and lungs in 1986 and mouth in 2010.
Austin contended his client's claims in 2013 stemmed from "personal and family upheaval" and he used the fake claims "to be able to stay at home and wallow in his depression." He began work at HUD in 1987 and was terminated in 2018.
"Mr. Oravec is extraordinarily remorseful for his conduct," Austin wrote. "Mr. Oravec fully accepts responsibility for his actions."
Gadarian, however, argued Oravec's crime was wide-ranging and asked for imprisonment of at least a year.
Oravec faked letterhead, used real doctors' names forged signatures and invoked HIPAA's privacy protections to try and prevent his bosses from uncovering his actions. Oravec also used the time to visit a friend in North Carolina and take a trip to Atlantic City, Gadarian wrote.