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Update: California woman faces 10 counts of work comp fraud for feigning ankle injury

Whether they suffer a back injury while picking up a box, break their leg after falling off a ladder or develop a wrist injury after extensive data entry, injured employees here in California can turn to their workers' compensation insurer for the financial assistance they will need during their recovery.

However, as we've seen time and time again, there are always some employees looking to defraud the system, exaggerating or even fabricating the extent of their injuries in order to collect work comp benefits.

For example, we reported earlier on a workers' compensation fraud case in San Mateo County that made headlines across the United States for the employee's rather bold -- and bawdy -- conduct.

Sources indicate that 28-year-old Modupe M. of Hayward was employed as a custodian for the Sequoia High School District. In February 2009, she suffered what she said was a severe ankle injury that prevented her from walking.

In the months after the injury, she attended 10 doctor appointments at separate offices, using crutches to get around and ultimately was able to secure work comp benefits.

However, a co-worker became suspicious about the extent of her injuries and notified the school district, which in turn contacted the insurance fraud unit of the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office.

Investigators began secretly recording Modupe M. via hidden camera as she left her scheduled doctor appointments and observed the following:

  • In one instance, she was recorded walking into the doctor's office using crutches and then leaving the doctor's office without using them
  • In another instance, she was recorded driving to a nearby park. Once here, she ran to her boyfriend and the two later engaged in a "romantic encounter"

Modupe M. was ultimately arrested and charged with 10 counts of work comp fraud in August 2009, and pleaded no contest to the charges in October. Last Thursday, she was sentenced to nine months in jail and ordered to pay almost $80,000 in restitution. She was also given three years of supervised probation.

San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe offered an interesting opinion as to how Modupe M. was able to recover so quickly.

"I guess love just helps one get over injuries," he said.

Remember 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 Washington Post, "California woman whose romp in park exposed workers' comp fraud gets 9 months in jail," Dec. 14, 2012

The San Francisco Chronicle, "Romantic tryst exposes allegedly fake injury," Ellen Huet, July 5, 2012

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