ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — A former New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL) employee has pleaded guilty to fraudulently receiving unemployment insurance benefits. The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) said Wendell Giles, 52, of Albany, pleaded guilty to mail fraud and aggravated identity theft charges.

As part of his guilty plea, Giles admitted that he and another former NYSDOL employee, Carl DiVeglia III, created and approve false unemployment insurance applications in 2020 and 2021, including applications for the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. Giles had been employed as a Senior Employment Security Clerk, and DiVeglia as a Labor Services Representative.

Giles is accused of recruiting relatives and friends to submit false benefit applications over the phone to DiVeglia after Giles asked them to lie for the eligibility questions. Giles and DiVeglia then allegedly took a share of the benefits paid by NYSDOL on the false claims.

According to DOJ, Giles used his share of the money to buy a three-wheeled motorcycle. In text messages, DiVeglia suggested a vanity license plate for Giles’s new vehicle, “TY PUA,” which Giles understood to mean “Thank You Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.” Giles responded, “Lol.”

Giles admitted to $826,530 in losses to state pandemic-related benefits programs. DOJ said he has agreed to pay full restitution to NYSDOL. DiVeglia had previously pleaded guilty to related charges and also agreed to pay restitution.

The mail fraud conviction carries a maximum term of 20 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and a term of supervised release of up to three years. The aggravated identity theft conviction carries a mandatory term of two years in prison. Giles is scheduled to be sentenced on January 5, 2023.