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Colorado man pleads guilty to identity theft of deceased for unemployment benefits

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Joe Mueller

(The Center Square) – A Colorado man will serve a three-year state prison sentence for fraudulently obtaining unemployment benefits, filing a false tax return and identity theft of two deceased individuals, according to Attorney General Phil Weiser's office.

Ryan Gerald Garbiso, 43, of Commerce City entered a plea agreement to two felonies. He will pay restitution of $25,051, which was the amount he fraudulently obtained in unemployment benefits from May through September 2020. He also will pay $1,684 to the Colorado Department of Revenue involving the false tax return.

“Unemployment benefits were a lifeline for thousands of workers and their families during the pandemic, and this defendant stole not only from those workers, but all Colorado taxpayers,” Weiser said in a statement. “This case is another step forward in holding accountable those who defraud our safety net and ensuring benefits go only to Coloradans who need them.”

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Phil Weiser

Garbiso allegedly committed theft, cybercrime, identity theft, criminal impersonation and illegally attempting to influence another.

The case is the result of efforts of the Colorado Unemployment Fraud Task Force. Weiser created the entity with state and federal law enforcement agencies in 2021 to investigate and prosecute suspected fraudulent activity against the state’s unemployment insurance program and identity theft. During calendar years 2022 and 2023, the task force sent 137 cases involving 240 claims to prosecutors throughout the state. More than $2.7 million in restitution was sought in the cases.

Garbiso’s case was filed in Adams County District Court. The arrest warrant affidavit stated Garbiso obtained personal identity information of two deceased individuals and filed unemployment insurance claims in their names.

According to the affidavit, investigators talked with Mandy Baros, Garbiso’s ex-girlfriend, who said she had “thrown him out of her home in April 2021. Baros stated that there was mail being sent to her address from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment for individuals who did not live there.”

When Baros mentioned this to Garbiso, the document stated he told her not to worry about it. However, Baros identified one of the deceased as a member of her extended family who died in 2021 and the other as Garbiso’s ex-wife, who died in 2014. A total of $14,283 was issued to Garbiso in the name of Baros’s family member and $10,768 to his deceased ex-wife.

Garbiso was able to access the money through several transactions from bank accounts he owned, according to a media release from Weiser’s office. He also continued to provide false information to state offices with regard to the claims, including impersonating the victims on several occasions.