New York State
James J. Wrynn Superintendent of Insurance 25 Beaver Street New York, N.Y. 10004
|ISSUED 3/30/2011||FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
Thirteen people from eight counties have been arrested on charges that they cheated New York’s workers’ compensation system, often by working side jobs while collecting benefits for injuries they pretended left them physically unable to work.
The series of arrests follow investigations by the New York State Insurance Department’s Frauds Bureau, along with investigators from the Workers’ Compensation Board Office of the Fraud Inspector General, the New York Insurance Fund, insurance company special investigative units and local law enforcement agencies.
The cases range from a Steuben County woman accused of fraudulently collecting $10,000 in benefits while running a ceramic supply store to a Schenectady man who claimed a job-related injury prevented him from working but was caught on videotape doing odd jobs.
“It’s always wrong when people take benefits they don’t deserve and it’s particularly troubling now because resources are scarce in today’s economy. Workers’ compensation benefits need to go to people who are legitimately entitled to receive them and not to those who would cheat the system,” Insurance Superintendent James Wrynn said.
“Workers’ compensation fraud is a felony and we are on the watch for those who commit it,” said New York State Insurance Fund Chief Deputy Executive Director and Secretary to the Board of Commissioners Francine James. “With help from local law enforcement and our partner agencies in New York State we are sending a clear message – offenders will be caught.”
Workers’ compensation is designed to compensate people for lost wages after they suffer a job-related injury. It is also used to pay for medical care and rehabilitation for workers hurt on the job. Individuals must be legitimately unable to work to receive compensation.
So, how are workers’ compensation cheats uncovered?
Frauds Bureau investigators say people who illegally double-dip are often discovered in routine insurance company audits. In other cases, co-workers, and even relatives, have been known to turn them in.
The Bureau also looks into anonymous tips it receives from individuals who contact the Bureau using its telephone tip line, 1-888-FRAUDNY.
Last year, the Insurance Department’s Frauds Bureau received 1,352 reports of suspected workers’ comp fraud and conducted investigations leading to the arrests of 119 New Yorkers for workers’ compensation-related criminal offenses.
The 13 recent arrests resulted in a range of charges which, in the event of convictions, could lead to sentences of up to seven years in prison. In some cases, individuals were charged with workers’ compensation fraud, while in other cases, the charges included grand larceny and offering a false instrument for filing.
One of the investigations resulted in three arrests. Hattie Twitty, 61, of Albany, is charged with falsely claiming she received home health care from Michelle Simpson, 39, and Harold Miller, 38, who is Twitty’s son. An investigation found that the care could never have been provided because Miller was in jail and Simpson was working at a nursing home when the care purportedly occurred.
The others arrested include:
Albany County: Mark S. Colucci, 55, of Hopewell, who collected $7,900 in wage replacement benefits for injuries he purportedly suffered while working as a tree service laborer. He was doing similar work for another tree service while receiving the benefits.
Albany County: Jennifer Rodriguez, 33, of Watervliet, who collected benefits while claiming she was unable to walk without a walker because of an injury she suffered as a supermarket cashier. Investigators discovered that she was able to walk unaided.
Albany County: Malvina Beaulieu, 48 of Ashland, who is accused of collecting $8,500 in benefits for a job-related injury while working as a home health aide.
Broome County: Ronald Brown, 47, of Binghamton, who is accused of collecting temporary total disability benefits while he was employed selling gold, jewelry and household items, as well as performing excavation work.
Chemung County: Reginald Corley, 44, who worked as a bartender in Elmira despite testifying twice that he was unable to work because of a job-relate injury.
Clinton County: Donald R. Velie Jr., 43, of Saranac, who is accused of working while collecting benefits he received after being hurt while a state corrections officer.
Fulton County: Paul Battisti, 37, of St. Johnsville in Montgomery County, who is accused of working as a drywall installer after claiming he was too injured to work.
Monroe County: Daniel Fauth, 53, of Webster, who faces a charge of workers’ compensation fraud for collecting $716 in benefits. He was arrested when investigators captured surveillance videos of him working at a landscaping business after he claimed he was not engaged in work of any kind.
Schenectady County: David C. Keiski, 44, of Schenectady, who submitted work activity statements claiming he had not returned to work because of a neck injury. But he was shown on surveillance videos doing odd jobs like fence work and countertop installations while collecting benefits.
Steuben County: Linda Fox, 59, of Wayland, who is accused of fraudulently collecting $10,000 while running a ceramic supply store. She admitted she owned the business after being shown investigators’ surveillance videos which contradicted her previous statements that she was not working.
Referrals leading to the investigations by the Frauds Bureau came from the Insurance Fund, Ace Insurance, Travelers Insurance Company, First Cardinal Insurance Company and Hanaford Insurance Company.
The individuals arrested are being prosecuted by county district attorneys.