ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — A New York State employee has been arrested for allegedly claiming unemployment benefits he was not entitled to.

New York Attorney General Letitia James said Johnny Neal, of Troy, filed false documents with the state to get the benefits.

Neal is accused of collecting over $17,000 in unemployment funds even though he was working as a supervisor for the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance. On September 20, 2020, Neal allegedly filed for unemployment insurance benefits and falsely claimed that he was not working since his office was closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, James said Neal continued to collect his taxpayer-funded salary throughout the pandemic. He is also accused of abusing his position by improperly accessing confidential taxpayer information for family, friends, and acquaintances in an effort to help them prepare their taxes.

Neal was arraigned in Albany County Court on Wednesday. He has been charged with third-degree grand larceny (felony) and a violation of the secrecy provisions of Tax Law §1825 (misdemeanor). 

“Unemployment insurance benefits have been a crucial resource in a difficult time for many New Yorkers,” said James. “By fraudulently collecting these benefits, Johnny Neal both cheated taxpayers and stole from those who rely on unemployment payments. My office will ensure that anyone who commits fraud or violates the public’s trust will be held accountable to the full extent of the law.”