Martville (WSYR-TV) -- A Martville couple admits they lied to Federal authorities so the wife could collect hundreds of thousands of dollars in public benefits.
Tracey and Gale Raponi pleaded guilty in Federal court on Tuesday in Syracuse.
Gale Raponi says in a video posted online that he relies on his sons to help with his dog training business.
"They're a big help. I wouldn't be able to do this without their help,” Raponi said.
But, Federal authorities say his wife was also working at Tuff-N-Uff Kennels in Martville, breeding and vaccinating dogs, even writing checks for goods and services. But Federal investigators say there was one major problem.
"Mrs. Raponi had been a letter carrier who had gone out on worker's comp and had received over a period of time some $326,000 in benefits,” explained Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney, John Duncan.
When confronted, the couple denied that Tracey Raponi was working at the kennel, defrauding the Labor Department and U.S. Postal Service of money meant for someone who could not be gainfully employed. Now, they're both charged with making false statements to Federal authorities. The government will try to recover the money for taxpayers and according to Duncan, tips from the public are crucial.
"We actually rely on that a lot because there are only a limited number of Federal investigators for matters of this sort and certainly they welcome receiving any tips on somebody who might be improperly receiving government benefits,” Duncan said.
The charges against the Raponis carry a maximum sentence of five years behind bars and a $250,000 fine. They’ll be sentenced in September.