Donald S. Gingerella, 53, of Westerly, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Providence on Friday to theft of government funds and Social Security fraud, after an investigation revealed that since January 2008, Gingerella collected nearly $83,000 from various federally funded public assistance programs to which he was not entitled. He faces statutory penalties of up to 25 years in federal prison when he is sentenced on December 11, 2014.
Gingerella’s guilty plea is announced by United States Attorney Peter F. Neronha; Robert L. Panella, Special Agent in Charge of the New York Region of the Department of Labor - Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations; William G. Squires, Special Agent in Charge of the Northeast Region of the United States Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General; and Scott E. Antolik, Special Agent in Charge of the Boston Field Office of the Social Security Administration, Office of the Inspector General/Office of Investigations.
At the time of his guilty plea, Gingerella admitted to the court that he applied for and collected a total of $82,346 in public assistance payments based on fraudulent statements made to the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training (RIDLT), the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), all federally funded programs.
According to information presented to the court, in November 2012, following Hurricane Sandy, Gingerella applied for Disaster Unemployment Assistance benefits, claiming the storm resulted in his being unemployed. As proof of employment Gingerella provided an IRS document claiming income in 2011 from self-employment.
Among the false claims he made on his application to RIDLT, Gingerella stated that he was not receiving SNAP benefits and that he was not receiving Social Security disability benefits. RIDLT investigators researched Gingerella’s claims and determined that they were false. While investigating Gingerella’s November 2012 claim for benefits, RIDLT investigators discovered that Gingerella was the recipient of Disaster Unemployment Assistance benefits as the result of the March 2010 floods. After denying his immediate request for assistance, all of the information gathered by RIDLT was turned over to the U.S. Department of Labor – Office of Inspector General (DOL- OIG) for further investigation.
According to information presented to the court, the investigation by DOL-OIG revealed that Gingerella received federally funded unemployment benefits following the March 2010 flood, based on a claim submitted to RIDLT. At the time, Gingerella claimed that his business, AAA Recreational, was “under six feet of water” and that most of his equipment “was damaged and most got sucked away in [the] river.” The most recent investigation revealed that no such business existed. At the time of his guilty plea, Gingerella admitted to the court that, based on fraudulent statements he made following the March 2010 flood, he received federally funded unemployment compensation totaling $15,417 to which he was not entitled.
The investigation by DOL-OIG also determined that from approximately 2008-2012, numerous unexplained cash deposits were made into numerous business bank accounts controlled by Gingerella, as well as paychecks he earned while working as a lifeguard in Westerly and while working at a marina. Upon discovering this information, agents investigated Gingerella’s eligibility for SNAP benefits and SSDI benefits.
The investigation revealed that in November 2006, when applying for SNAP benefits and in subsequent re-certifications, Gingerella inflated his living expenses and failed to report income, including cash deposited into his bank accounts. The investigation revealed that Gingerella began to receive SNAP benefits in 2006. At the time of his guilty plea, Gingerella admitted to failing to disclose income and making false statements which led to him receiving at least $11,366 in SNAP benefits to which he was not entitled between 2008-2012.
Additionally, it was learned that Gingerella owned and operated several businesses over the years, including Don’s Beach Parking, Three Fish Fisheries, AAA Recreational, East Coast Hospice Furniture LLC, and Goldstar Rentals and Sales LLC. At different times, these businesses were listed as the owner of Gingerella’s Westerly property and of some of his vehicles, including three late model trucks and a 2009 Kawasaki motorcycle. Gingerella received income from work performed for these businesses, which he failed to report to the Social Security Administration. At the time of his guilty plea, Gingerella admitted that he knowingly failed to report his return to work and his earned income, and that he received $56,563 in SSDI benefits to which he was not entitled.
Appearing before U.S. District Court Judge Mary M. Lisi, Gingerella pleaded guilty to two counts of theft of government property and one count of Social Security fraud.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sandra R. Hebert.