New York Attorney General Letitia James, New York state Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon, and New York State Police Acting Superintendent Kevin P. Bruen today announced the arrest and arraignment of Robert Decker (66, of Amsterdam) on an 11-count indictment in connection with his theft of more than $6,000 in unemployment insurance benefits issued by the state of New York under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). Decker filed for and collected the unemployment funds despite the fact that he was working for National Home Exteriors, a home contractor based in Athens, New York. The indictment - unsealed in Albany County Court before Judge Andra Ackerman - charges Decker with both Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, class D felony, and Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree, a class E felony.
"As hundreds of thousands continue to struggle throughout our state as a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic, it is appalling that someone chose to steal funds intended for those most in need," said Attorney General James. "So many across our state continue to feel the effects of COVID-19, yet Robert Decker chose to double dip and pilfer the state's coffers when the state's finances remained in dire straits. We will not let unlawful acts like this to go unchecked, which is why we will continue to use every tool at our disposal to hold accountable those who try to cheat their way to wealth."
"There is never an excuse to knowingly commit fraud and steal from a system that was designed to help New Yorkers in a time of need," said Commissioner Reardon. "However, it's even more despicable when you try to scam the unemployment system in the midst of a public health pandemic. We have no tolerance for thieves and if you break the law, you will be held accountable. I commend our partners in the Office of the Attorney General and at all levels of law enforcement for their commitment to fighting Unemployment Insurance fraud."
"This person deliberately stole funds that were intended to help those who have been struggling to support themselves and their families due to the pandemic," said Acting Superintendent Bruen. "We simply have no tolerance for this type of crime. I want to thank our partners at the Office of the Attorney General and the New York state Department of Labor for their collaboration and hard work on this case."
In court documents, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) alleges that, between at least August 16, 2020 and October 21, 2020, Decker stole more than $6,000 in unemployment insurance he had improperly claimed under the CARES Act. During that 10-week period, Decker was simultaneously paid more than $18,000 by National Home Exteriors for his work securing home improvement contracts for the company. The indictment lays out how Decker requested to be paid in checks or in cash, so that he could continue filing for and obtaining as much as $800 in weekly unemployment benefits. Despite working for National Home Exteriors virtually every day during that 10-week period, Decker still filed 10 false weekly re-certifications for eligibility for unemployment insurance, asserting that he had not worked a single day during any of those weeks.
Decker - who also uses the names Bob Dale and Bob Ricci - was previously charged, along with codefendants Scott Driscoll and Robert Langlais, in a 17-count indictment unsealed in Albany County Court on October 5, 2020 for his role in a million-dollar contractor scam perpetrated against dozens of homeowners and businesses in upstate New York.
Additionally, in 2003, following numerous complaints from homeowners, the OAG obtained a consent order that permanently enjoined Decker from operating as a home improvement contractor in the state of New York unless he filed a $100,000 performance bond with the OAG. Decker has never filed such a bond, yet continued to illegally work on behalf of home improvement contractors while obtaining substantial deposits from homeowners.
If convicted of these crimes, Decker faces up to 3 ½ to 7 years in prison.
Decker was remanded to Albany County jail, pending a bail hearing.
The charges against the defendant are allegations and he is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
Today's charges are the result of a joint investigation by the Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau in the OAG and the Financial Crimes Unit at the New York State Police, with additional assistance from the New York state Department of Labor.
The OAG wishes to thank the New York State Police and the New York state Department of Labor for their valuable assistance in this investigation.
The OAG case is being prosecuted by Special Counsel Benjamin S. Clark of the Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau, with the assistance of Legal Support Analyst Jamirah Williams-Johnson. The Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau is led by Bureau Chief Stephanie Swenton and Deputy Bureau Chief Joseph G. D'Arrigo. The OAG investigation was conducted by Investigator Mitchell Paurowski, under the supervision of Supervising Investigator Mark Spencer and Deputy Bureau Chief Antoine Karam. The Investigations Bureau is led by Chief Oliver Pu-Folkes. Both the Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau and the Investigations Bureau are part of the Division for Criminal Justice, which is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General José Maldonado and overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.