James Internicola, a 26-year veteran of the New York City Department of Corrections and guard at Rikers Island jail, is the subject of a federal investigation after prosecutors charged him with pocketing over $170,000 in fraudulent overtime pay while vacationing in Aruba and the Jersey Shore.
The 56-year-old corrections officer, who claimed to be working more than 100 hours a week, is now facing federal program fraud charges.
Between July 2021 and January 2023, Internicola allegedly manipulated timesheets to reflect that he had worked 2,250 hours at Rikers Island while he was, in fact, at home or on vacation.
During this 18-month period, he managed to accumulate more than $390,000 in pay and overtime, despite his base salary being only $92,000 per year.
Instead of being at work, the defendant was often at home or even on vacation. “Correction officers who steal tax dollars by fraudulently obtaining compensation should take note of today’s arrest and know that this office is working with our law enforcement partners to root out corruption on Rikers Island,” Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said in a statement.
According to the federal complaint, Internicola logged a jaw-dropping average of 111 hours every week during the fiscal year ending in June 2022, equivalent to 16 hours a day, seven days a week. The complaint further alleges that he frequently failed to show up for work or left early, as supported by license plate and cell phone data.
James Smith, FBI assistant director-in-charge of the New York Field Office, expressed zero tolerance for such fraudulent activities.
“Internicola’s alleged crime taints every law enforcement officer who takes an oath to uphold the law. The FBI maintains a zero-tolerance policy for individuals who commit fraud and steal from law-abiding taxpayers,” Smith said.
Internicola was arrested at his Staten Island home on October 4, where he was subsequently released on a $150,000 bond pending his next court appearance. He has been suspended without pay from his position at the New York City Department of Correction.
The Department of Investigation (DOI) Commissioner Margaret Garnett also weighed in on the case, drawing attention to the need to protect city resources from theft and abuse.
“This corrections officer, as charged, stole over $171,000 from the city by falsely claiming he was at work on Rikers Island, including for overtime hours when, in fact, he was vacationing in Aruba and the Jersey Shore, or at home on Staten Island.”
The New York City Department of Correction released a statement condemning Internicola’s alleged conduct, affirming their commitment to pursuing justice, and declaring, “We will work with our partners in law enforcement to prosecute these individuals to the fullest extent of the law.”
If convicted, James Internicola could face up to 10 years of imprisonment for his alleged fraudulent actions.