After falsely claiming a disability, a postal employee has now been charged for fraud after the government paid out $160,000 in disability benefits. Named Joseph Penatello, the man had previously worked for the Postal Service and originally claimed workers’ compensation back in 2001 after sustaining a neck and back injury. However, Postal Service Inspector General agents recently filmed the man running flea markets despite still claiming complete disability.
In a case that seems all too familiar, Penatello was frequently submitting documents to the Department of Labor, suggesting that he was unable to work thanks to the neck/back injury. Between 2014 and 2018, the documents also suggested that he wasn’t able to earn any money. Not only was he filmed once working in flea markets in Manhattan and Brooklyn, he was caught no less than 20 times by the special agents. Standing for long periods, carrying large boxes, and driving a vehicle, it didn’t take long to realize this wasn’t a ‘completely disabled’ man ‘unable to work.’
As the agents were building the case, they were even able to have discussions with him while undercover. Penatello noted how he would work up to five days each week and with some days running for 12 hours. All the while, he was claiming disability benefit and received around $160,000 from the government.
Now, with all the evidence against Penatello, a case has been lodged, and he could face a maximum of five years in prison. Of course, we must note that all charges are allegations at this point and that the party should, therefore, be considered innocent until proven guilty.
For Matthew Modafferi, one of the leaders of the USPS-OIG Special Agent program, this case is a result of the hard work and determination of all special agents. Since the federal workers’ compensation system is designed for those who really need the help, he says the agents of the US Postal Service Office of Inspector General will always do their best to find people taking advantage and acting fraudulently.