Greene Co. man in national spotlight for stealing close to $1M in benefit fraud

John Caltabiano Jr. (ABC News)

CATSKILL, N.Y. (NEWS10) – A Catskill man was the subject of “Nightline” on Friday after being sentenced for benefit fraud.

John Caltabiano Jr. was sentenced in April. He was previously convicted on sexual assault charges. A federal judge called his criminal history “extremely disturbing.”

Starting in 2006, investigators said Caltabiano Jr. pretended to be blind to collect workers compensation. An in-depth piece on his case aired on “Nightline” Friday night.

The piece highlighted how far some people will go to rob the system, and it’s happening across the Capital Region.

“A couple years ago, it was over $1 million,” Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple said. “Last year, I think it was a half-million dollars.”

The money stolen through benefit fraud belongs to taxpayers, and it may never be given back. Benefit programs are designed to help people get back on their feet and move on.

“They find a void and work the system, and boy do they go to work,” Apple said.

A federal judge handed down an almost 5-year sentence to Caltabiano Jr. for disability fraud. According to court documents, in 2006, the 49-year old said a workplace accident left him blind. He started collecting workers compensation, and he played the part.

His girlfriend would lead him into hearings, and he told investigators he couldn’t get around without help. But little did he know that investigators caught him on camera driving, shopping and going to the gym.

Caltabiano Jr. was on track to steal more than $1 million from taxpayers. It’s a widespread program that has people financially crippling their communities.

“It costs the county a lot of money – a lot of money,” Apple said. “And then if you start thinking about having to hire all these investigators to investigate it – paying their salary and benefits – people wonder why their taxes are so high. Well, here you go.”

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