Feds file civil claim against North Providence man

PROVIDENCE  – The U.S Attorney’s office announced on Monday that it has filed a civil complaint against a Syrian national who lives in North Providence for illegally collecting nearly $35,000 in extended federal unemployment benefits.

The complaint alleges that Ahmad Jbawi, 39, made multiple false representations to the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training to collect the benefits. It also claims that he was in Syria for more than half of the 700 days between Jan. 18, 2009 and April 16, 2011 when he was collecting the payments.

In 2008, following the financial global crisis, Congress authorized federally-funded extensions of benefits for people collecting unemployment. In many cases, they were necessary to meet their basic economic needs.

The government’s case, brought under the False Claims Act, allows the United States to recover federal funds that are paid out as a result of fraud, as well as triple damages and penalties between $5,500 and $11,000 for each false claim submitted.

The complaint alleged that Jbawi filed at least 56 false claims and fraudulently collected $34,290 in federally funded unemployment benefits.

“While the amount in question may appear to some to be modest, the principle at issue in this case is not,” said U.S. Attorney Peter F. Neronha. “These funds are designated to provide unemployed individuals the opportunity to support themselves and their families through difficult times while they looked for work, not to reward fraud like the conduct alleged here. this office will vigorously pursue abuses of this program with all the legal tools at our disposal.”

The case is being handled by Assistant U.S.  Attorney Zachary A. Cunha and it was investigated by the federal Department of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations and the state Department of Labor and Training Fraud Unit.

Correction: A previous version of this incorrectly stated Jbawi's status as a North Providence resident.


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