November 08, 2021

Former town tax collector pleads guilty to offering a false instrument for filing in connection with pension fraud scheme

On November 5, 2021, State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli and Orange County District Attorney David M. Hoovler announced that the former Town of Bethel, Sullivan County, Tax Collector,  Debra Gabriel, pleaded guilty before Judge Peter Feinberg in the Town of Rockland Justice Court to Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the Second Degree, in connection with a scheme to defraud the New York State and Local Retirement System.  Gabriel, 62, had resigned her public office and retired in August 2020.

The case against Gabriel is being prosecuted by Orange County District Attorney David Hoovler, appointed to serve as Special Prosecutor and Orange County Assistants District Attorney Peter Fernandez, Matthew Healy and Pakiza Sajid.

At the time that she pleaded guilty, Gabriel admitted having submitted a false "Record of Activity" with the Town of Bethel for filing with the State Comptroller.  Records of Activity are documents in which certain appointed or elected officials must record a daily detail of their hours worked and duties and certify their accuracy. The information is used to calculate their service time for retirement benefits.

An investigation of Gabriel’s Records of Activity conducted by the New York State Comptroller’s Office and the New York State Police revealed that from April 1, 2009 to Aug.  31, 2019, she falsely claimed credit for full-time work for the Town of Bethel when her actual hours were far less. For example, in 2018 and 2019, she had a full-time job with a private healthcare company, while claiming to also have worked full-time as a Tax Collector for Bethel. Her false claims increased her service credit toward retirement by more than seven years, according to Comptroller DiNapoli.

Gabriel turned over a certified check in the amount of $6,377.46 to prosecutors from the Orange County District Attorney’s Office as restitution to the State of New York for the amount of pension benefits that she was overpaid.

“Ms. Gabriel, as tax collector, was responsible for overseeing the collection of revenue for the town while at the same time she regularly filed false statements with the New York State and Local Retirement System to commit fraud,” said Comptroller DiNapoli. “Now, thanks to my partnership with District Attorney Hoovler and the New York State Police, she has been convicted and repaid the money she stole.”

District Attorney Hoovler thanked the New York State Comptroller’s Office and New York State Police for their investigation and the arrest of the defendant.  

“I thank State Comptroller DiNapoli for all the work his office did in this investigation, as well as the New York State Police who aided in the investigation and arrested the defendant,” said District Attorney David M. Hoovler. “Thefts of public monies are always serious. One of the benefits of public service is the ability to obtain a pension. Those funds will simply not be available to those who earned them if fraudulent practices are tolerated.”