Less than a month after two former New York City correction officers admitted to defrauding the department of sick leave, a third offender pleaded guilty to the same charge.
Federal officials announced Tuesday that former correction officer Eduardo Trinidad pleaded guilty to federal program fraud, after admitting that he had fraudulently obtained his salary from the New York City Department of Correction by taking sick leave despite being able to work.
On Feb. 27, fellow former correction officers Steven Cange and Monica Coaxum pleaded guilty to the same federal offense.
“The defendants have admitted stealing taxpayer funds by collecting their full salaries while falsely claiming they were too sick to work,” United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Breon Peace said in a statement. “Sick leave abuse is a plague on the New York City Department of Correction that puts fellow officers and inmates at risk during the ongoing staffing crisis in the jails. This Office is working with our federal and local law enforcement partners to identify those who exploit the sick leave policy and hold them accountable.”
New York City Department of Investigation Commissioner Jocelyn Strauber denounced the trio for forging medical documents to defraud the department — all the while they took lavish trips, partied and even made home repairs.
“These correction officers faked medical documentation to take sick leave they were not entitled to in the midst of a city jail staffing crisis. They violated DOC policy, and they broke the law,” Strauber said in a statement. “Their conduct — including travel around the country, partying, bowling, and home repairs, on stolen sick leave time — is an insult to the correction officers who do their jobs, who show up to work and risk their personal safety on a daily basis.”
According to court documents, Cange, 49, obtained more than $139,000 in salary while on sick leave from March 2021 through November 2022. During that time, officials said, Cange submitted more than 100 phony medical notes to the department, claiming he was at physical therapy or another medical provider. Records subpoenaed from those providers later proved that wasn’t the case.
Coaxum, 36, fraudulently obtained more than $80,000 in salary while on sick leave from March 2021 through April 2022, while Trinidad, her fiancé, conned the department out of more than $119,000 in salary while on sick leave from June 2021 through October 2022.
Coaxum submitted nearly 50 fraudulent medical notes to DOC, according to court documents, and investigators were eventually able to debunk Coaxum’s injury claims. Evidence presented Tuesday showed that, on more than one occasion, the former corrections officer was traveling and attending parties while she claimed to be injured and at home.
Her soon-to-be-hubby made nearly identical claims, but officials say surveillance showed Trinidad, 42, “performing home improvement work, bowling, and traveling abroad without any difficulty or help from equipment like an orthopedic boot, sling or cane which he used when attending required check-ins with DOC medical officials.”
All three fraudsters were arrested in November 2022 and reassigned from the DOC shortly thereafter.
At sentencing, Cange, Coaxum and Trinidad face up to 10 years in prison.