State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli and the New York State Police today announced the arrest of Debra Gabriel, the former tax collector for the Town of Bethel, for allegedly stealing unearned benefits from the state pension fund.
Gabriel, who resigned her public office and retired in Aug. 2020, is alleged to have submitted a false Record of Activities (ROAs) with the town for filing with the State Comptroller. ROAs are documents in which certain officials must record their work hours to determine if they are full-time or part-time. The information is used to calculate their service time for retirement benefits.
“Debra Gabriel allegedly defrauded the retirement system by lying about the hours she worked. Now she must face the consequences of her actions,” DiNapoli said. “I am committed to protecting our state pension system, its members and taxpayers from fraud and abuse. My thanks to the New York State Police and Sullivan County DA Meagan Galligan for helping bring Gabriel to justice.”
New York State Police Superintendent Kevin P. Bruen said, “This arrest demonstrates the hard work of our law enforcement partners focused on the same goal: holding those who break our laws, accountable. The victims in this case are the people of New York who put their trust in this former town employee. I commend and thank our partners at the State Comptroller’s Office and Sullivan County District Attorney’s Office for their commitment to investigating those who prey on the unsuspecting public for their own gain.”
DiNapoli said that an investigation of Gabriel’s ROAs revealed that from April 1, 2009 to August 31, 2019, she falsely claimed credit for full-time work for the town when her actual hours were far less. For example, in 2018 and 2019, she had a fulltime job with a private health care company, while claiming to also have worked full time as a tax collector for Bethel. Her claims falsely increased her service credit toward retirement by more than seven years, according to DiNapoli.
As a result, it is alleged that Gabriel’s monthly benefit was falsely inflated by $290 each month from the time of her retirement on August 31, 2019 to June 30, 2021 and she was paid $6,300 to which she was not entitled.
Gabriel faces charges of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, Corrupting the Government in the Third Degree, Defrauding the Retirement System, and Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree.
The filing of criminal charges is merely an accusation. All persons are presumed innocent unless and until they are proven guilty in a court of law.
Since taking office in 2007, DiNapoli has committed to fighting public corruption and encourages the public to help fight fraud and abuse. New Yorkers can report allegations of fraud involving taxpayer money by calling the toll-free Fraud Hotline at 1-888-672-4555, by filing a complaint online at https://www.osc.state.ny.us/investigations, or by mailing a complaint to: Office of the State Comptroller, Division of Investigations, 8th Floor, 110 State St., Albany, NY 12236.