CHEEKTOWAGA, NY - A local lawmaker has pleaded guilty after collecting thousands of dollars in unemployment benefits when he shouldn't have.
Cheektowaga town councilman Charlie Markel plead guilty Friday to falsifying unemployment benefits, after losing a second job he had in 2011.
Markel has been a council-member in Cheektowaga for more than six years.
Three years ago, Markel lost a job he had as a manager at a West Seneca convenience store after the business closed down.
That same year, Markel says he began claiming unemployment. But, Markel remained a town council member and prosecutors with the Erie County District Attorney's office say that Markel claimed unemployment benefits and said he wasn't working at all.
The District Attorney's Office says that Markel claimed $7,100 that he wasn't entitled to. Markel was ordered to pay back the money, which he says he's already done.
Markel blames the mistake on Albany and says he talked to the state Labor Department multiple times to get information about how to properly claim benefits.
"I said I knew there was a mistake on the first paperwork corrected it, talked to them again, thought everything was okay, talked to them one more time and anybody who knows me knows that I try to do everything possible right, you know what because I don't want to be sitting here one day in front of a camera because I did something stupid, and here I am," Markel said.
Markel adds that he wasn't aware that he had to claim how many hours he worked as a councilmember.
"I didn't do anything intentionally, I tried to follow all the rules, I tried to follow their rules, they sent me to their website, I read the stuff, I looked at the stuff. Do I feel terrible about this? Absolutely, absolutely," Markel said.
About six weeks ago, he says he got a letter from the Erie County District Attorney's office, informing him that he had done something wrong.
On Monday, 2 On Your Side reached out to district attorney Frank Sedita for comment, but we were told he was out of town.
At this time, Markel is not resigning. He plans to stay on the town board.