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Newspaper employee convicted of work comp fraud

Employee fraud -- particularly workers' compensation fraud -- is a constant threat to California employers. Specifically, it can cost them both time and money, two prized commodities in our unsteady economy. In addition, employees engaging in this type of fraudulent activity are committing a crime punishable by large fines, a permanent criminal record and even prison time.

To illustrate the severity of the situation, consider the case of a Sacramento woman who was recently convicted of multiple felony charges, including seven counts of work comp fraud, for fabricating her work injuries.

According to the Yolo County District Attorney's Office, 58-year-old Linda V. -- a 25-year employee of the Sacramento Bee newspaper -- went on disability in August 2003, and was subsequently diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome.

She underwent successful corrective surgery in June 2004 and was cleared by surgeons to return to her job. However, Linda V. later claimed to be in pain and unable to use her hands after the surgery. Consequently, her treating physician classified her as "totally disabled," meaning that her physical condition prevented her from performing normal job duties.

Interestingly, a subsequent investigation revealed that from March 2005 to February 2007, Linda V. received work comp benefits to which she was not entitled from her employer, as well as benefits from a long-term disability policy she had through Liberty Mutual Insurance Company.

Specifically, investigators recorded Linda V. engaging in basic activities that she claimed were otherwise impossible due to her serious hand injury, including gardening, combing her hair and holding a video camera upright for half an hour.

(It is worth noting that Linda V. routinely confirmed her purported disability to physicians, telling them that she was "in constant pain" and unable to use her hands for any basic purpose such as lifting a fork.)

An orthopedic surgeon who reviewed the surveillance footage indicated that it 1) refuted Linda V.'s claims of limited use of her hands and constant pain, and 2) demonstrated that she could return to work, avoiding only "power gripping and torquing."

A few weeks ago, Linda V. was convicted of seven counts of work comp fraud, three counts of presenting false statements concerning payment from an insurance policy and two counts of attempted perjury. Her sentencing is scheduled for March 23.

"We are pleased with the outcome of this case and that justice has prevailed," said Pam Dinsmore, community affairs director for the Sacramento Bee. "We have been working tirelessly with the Yolo County district attorney to bring resolution to this case."

Workers compensation fraud/employee fraud is a very serious crime. If you suspect that such a crime has been perpetrated against your organization, you should strongly consider speaking with an experienced workers' comp defense attorney.

This post was provided for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice. Names have been withheld to protect the identity of the parties.

Sources:

The Daily Democrat, "West Sac woman convicted of workers' compensation fraud" Feb. 10, 2012

The Sacramento Bee, "Ex-Bee employee guilty of workers' comp fraud" Feb. 10, 2012

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