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NJ Biz Owner Didn't Give Hurt Landscaper Worker's Comp, Woman Stole $19K In Unemployment: AG

Rick Hockenberry
Rick Hockenberry Photo Credit: Rick Hockenberry Facebook photo

Two New Jersey residents are facing federal charges for failing to provide workers compensation to an injured employee and stealing more than $19,000 in unemployment funds, authorities said.

Richard Hockenberry, 71, of Hawthorne, and Brianna Larkins, 34, of Secaucus, were both charged by way of indictment for the employment benefit-related crimes, Acting Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin announced Monday, May 9.

One of Hockneberry's employees at his landscaping company became injured at work on Feb. 26, 2018, Platkin said. On May 4, 2018, the victim filed a Workers’ Compensation claim petition, and it later came to light that Hockenberry failed to carry out worker's comp insurance coverage, required by law, at the time of the accident, Platkin said.

Documents obtained from the New Jersey Compensation Rating and Inspection Bureau (CRIB), the state agency that maintains all records regarding Worker’s Compensation insurance policies, confirmed that Rick Hockenberry Landscaping did not maintain Workers’ Compensation coverage on the date of the accident. 

CRIB’s records also revealed that Rick Hockenberry Landscaping had maintained Workers’ Compensation coverage from Feb. 26, 1977 through Feb. 26, 1993, and only purchased a new policy on Aug. 11, 2018, after the victim’s injury had occurred. The policy was canceled for non-payment of premium on March 10, 2019.

Hockenberry as a result is responsible for payment of Temporary Disability benefits, medical benefits, counsel, and other fees totaling $194,582.

Larkins is accused of illegally collecting unemployment benefits in New Jersey while being employed full time in New York, which she was ineligible for, from March 20, 2020 through Dec. 5, 2020, authorities said.

Subpoenaed records confirm that throughout the claim period, Larkins was employed full- time in New York. She was indicted on a charge of third-degree theft by deception for allegedly stealing $19,659 in Unemployment Insurance benefits by filing an unemployment claim in the State of New Jersey while being employed full time by the Kings County District Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn, NY.

Acting Attorney General Platkin and Labor Commissioner Asaro-Angelo urged members of the public and employers to report cases of suspected fraud by visiting the NJDOL online portal or calling the NJDOL fraud hotline at (609) 777-4304. 

Deputy Attorney General Danielle Scarduzio is prosecuting the cases and Detective Brianna Perea investigated the cases for the Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau, under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Jacqueline D. Smith and Bureau Chief Erik Daab.

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