A Fraud Duffer

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46466081 - back pain.

A golfer who mishits a ball or has very little experience in playing the game is called a “duffer.” (The word can also mean that someone is not the brightest bulb in the light fixture or the sharpest knife in the drawer. Get what I mean?) A Bigfork, Montana man miscalculated the distance his workers’ compensation fraud scheme would go before landing in a proverbial sand trap. He got away with $27,500 in government benefits he did not deserve before someone tipped off the Montana State Fund, the program responsible for paying out the fraudster’s workers’ compensation benefits.

Today’s article explains that the Montana man injured his back when lifting concrete forms while working for a construction contractor. Initially, the contractor questioned his claim because he also worked for an area farm on the weekends. After the claim was accepted by the Montana State Fund, the supposedly injured man began receiving medical benefits and bi-weekly total disability payments of $822. (Over a two-year period, he received $27,478.23 in workers’ compensation benefits.)

It turns out that he was not injured as bad as he claimed. The fraud coordinator that handled the man’s case received a confidential tip that suggested the temporarily disabled man was working and playing golf while growing the balance in his bank account thanks to the Montana State Fund. Further research revealed that he had a tendency to brag that he played around 36 holes of golf on a daily basis. (Someone with a bad back could not easily swing this.)

It wasn’t long before the fraud coordinator turned the case over to the Montana Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation. The organization followed through by interviewing several people who had hired the man to perform construction and remodeling jobs for cash or goods during the time he was also reaping the government benefits. The organization hired a couple of investigators to follow the man around. (They took videos of him shoveling snow, lifting furniture and playing golf. Oops.)

Under Montana state law (or any state for that matter), any person who knowingly or purposely earns wages while also collecting temporary total disability benefits is guilty of theft. This man failed to disclose that he was capable of working. (If he was playing golf every day, he can work.)

The 45-year-old Montana golfer pleaded guilty to workers’ compensation fraud and was given a five-year suspended sentenced. He must also pay back the Montana State Fund for the nearly $27,500 he illegally collected. (Lucky for him, it looks like he got a Mulligan by not having to go to jail for his crime.) Let’s hope he learned from his mistakes and will have better follow through when completing any government forms in the future.

Today’s “Fraud of the Day” is based on an article entitled, Golfing leads to workers comp fraud convictionpublished by Business Insurance on April 17, 2017.

A Montana man who was videotaped lifting furniture and playing golf while collecting workers compensation benefits pleaded guilty to a charge of criminal theft and will have to pay back nearly $27,500, according to a statement issued Thursday by Montana Attorney General Tim Fox.

David Howke of Whitefish, Montana, worked for Big Fork, Montana-based construction contractor Aeneas Enterprises Ltd. in December 2012 when he injured his back while lifting concrete forms. The employer initially questioned the origin of the injury because it noted Mr. Howke also worked a side job on a farm on the weekends, but the claim was accepted by the Montana State Fund, workers comp insurer of last resort, according to the charging documents.

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Larry Benson
Larry Benson is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances for Revenue Discovery and Recovery at LexisNexis Risk Solutions. In this role, Benson is responsible for developing partnerships for the tax and revenue and child support enforcement verticals. He focuses on embedded companies that have a need for third-party analytics to enhance their current offerings.