Free Trip to Court

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49329562 - cardboard boxes on work place in post office

Don’t you hate it when you get those annoying telemarketing calls that claim you’ve won a trip to a luxurious destination and all you need to do is sit through a brief presentation? A Great Falls, Montana woman, who was collecting workers’ compensation benefits after injuring her back while working at her postal service job, got lucky and won a free kayaking trip. (Compliments of an undercover federal agent.) The presentation she ended up sitting through was a three-day trial that concluded with her own conviction for workers’ compensation fraud.

During the trial, prosecutors presented evidence showing the woman was capable of working and definitely ineligible for the nearly $700,000 in workers’ compensation benefits she had collected. While the fraudster in today’s case did have back surgery and was unable to work for a while, she failed to return to her job at the post office and lied to her doctors so that they embellished her symptoms and qualified her for total disability.

Agents from the postal service decided to conduct surveillance and found that she was quite active. Apparently, she was feeding horses, lifting heavy bales of hay, jogging on a regular basis, clearing land, running chainsaws, removing tree stumps, building fences, mowing her lawn each week, riding horses multiple times a week, plus other physically challenging activities. (She sounds like she could be some stiff competition for Paul Bunyan.)

The federal government got serious about catching this woman defrauding the program. To further prove their case against the former postal employee, additional federal agents contacted her with the good news that she had won a free kayaking trip. She accepted the trip and paddled about 30 miles in open ocean water over three days. (In what sounds like more of a Survivor episode, she hiked, lifted heavy objects, karate-kicked and judo-chopped an object held by an undercover federal agent. Did I mention that this was all captured on video?)

Two months after the kayaking trip, federal agents followed up with the woman to see if she was able to return to her job with the postal service. But, during the interview, the woman claimed she couldn’t sit or stand for long and was totally sedentary. (You can guess what happened after that interview. Who wouldn’t want to be a fly on the wall when they showed her the video?)

The fraudster was guilty of workers’ compensation fraud for collecting $693,403.63 in benefits she did not qualify for nor did she deserve. Of that amount, she received $268,892.18 for wages, even though she was capable of working a desk job at the post office. She is scheduled to be sentenced.

It remains to be seen what her punishment will be, but I’m guessing this Montana woman will be paying a fair amount of restitution for carrying out her workers’ compensation fraud scheme. At this point it is undetermined if her next trip will be to prison or not.

Today’s “Fraud of the Day” is based on an article entitled, “Montana postal worker convicted of workers comp fraudposted on postalnews.com on August 27, 2017.

GREAT FALLS – The United States Attorney’s Office announced a federal court convicted Deborah Joy Durand of False Statements to Obtain Federal Employees’ Compensation Benefits, Wire Fraud, False Claims Relating to Workers’ Compensation Benefits, and Theft of Government Property. U.S. District Judge Brian Morris presided over the 3-day trial.

At trial, the government presented evidence that Durand had a back injury from her job at the Post Office. She had back surgery and was unable to work for a period of time. Instead of returning to work when capable, Durand lied to her doctors, embellished her symptoms, and ultimately obtained total disability. Agents from the Post Office conducted surveillance and saw that Durand was feeding horses, lifting hay bales, jogging in the mornings, clearing land, running chainsaws, removing stumps from fallen trees, building fences, mowing the lawn every week, riding horses twice a week, and many other physically challenging activities.

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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.