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California gardener injured by falling tree branch charged with work comp fraud

The simple truth is that every business owner, regardless of their size or the services they provide, must be on the lookout for fraudulent work comp claims. In particular, they must be on lookout for those situations in which employees are less than honest about the severity of their work injuries.

To illustrate, consider a recent case out of San Bernardino County, where a 54-year-old man was taken into custody last week, and charged with both perjury and workers' compensation fraud.

According to the San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office, Jose C. suffered a serious work-related injury back in October 2010 while working as a gardener for a local landscaping company. Specifically, he required hospitalization after being struck by a falling tree branch and was later released with a set of minor work restrictions.

A team of private insurance investigators subsequently placed Jose C. under video surveillance from April 2010 through September 2011 after receiving a tip. During this time, they managed to secure video of him performing the otherwise normal duties of a gardener without any visible pain or discomfort on at least six different occasions.

Roughly a year later, the San Bernardino County D.A.'s Office Workers' Compensation Insurance Fraud Unit began its own investigation into the matter, also securing footage of Jose C. working as a gardener with no apparent pain or discomfort -- and while still collecting work comp benefits for his injury.

"[Jose C.] had previously stated that he was unable to perform the full range of his duties," said Deputy District Attorney Scott Byrd. "However, our investigation revealed that he had misrepresented the extent of his injuries and received more compensation than he was entitled to."

Criminal charges were officially filed last Monday and Jose C. was taken into custody on a felony arrest warrant shortly thereafter. The next day, he pleaded not guilty at his arraignment.

If convicted on both the perjury charge and the work comp fraud charge, he could be sentenced to as many as eight years in prison.

"This type of fraud is harmful because it causes premiums that businesses have to pay to go higher," said Byrd. "It drains business profits, which in turn costs honest workers money in raises or other benefits that they may have been eligible to receive."

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.


San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office, "Fontana man charged with workers' comp fraud," Jan. 11, 2013

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