The Camera Doesn’t Lie

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How many times have you seen a photograph of yourself and wondered if you really looked like the image staring back at you? (You had no idea you looked that bad, right?) A former Santa Clara County, California Sheriff lieutenant is looking pretty bad after she was caught red-handed on video surveillance doing some things she was supposedly not physically capable of doing. Now she’s facing some serious charges of workers’ compensation fraud.

The Santa Clara County woman moved to Las Vegas after being awarded Industrial Disability Retirement following an on-the-job injury. (That means she was deemed physically incapable of performing her job duties.) A Palo Alto-based physician backed her workers’ compensation claim that she could no longer perform 20 of the 31 essential job functions. (These tasks included walking, jogging a mile in 12 minutes, stair climbing, bending and driving a patrol car.) Interestingly enough, this claim was in addition to another workers’ compensation claim she previously reported. The physician requested that the former lieutenant be given another position so she could continue working. It was at that time that the county’s workers’ compensation division contracted with a firm to conduct surveillance on the suspected fraudster in Las Vegas.

After meeting over a cup of coffee in the Las Vegas area, private investigators followed the woman around and recorded her driving a car by herself, carrying her child, and visiting a local gym. (Here’s where it gets more interesting.) At the gym, she was observed using a treadmill and stair-climber and participating in strenuous strength training. The investigator even reported that she was open about competing in body building competitions. (So, obviously someone wasn’t telling the truth on their workers’ compensation claim, but I’m not pointing any fingers.)

Word got back to the Sheriff’s Office, which then contacted the former employee to request an in-person meeting in the San Jose headquarters office. (As you might expect, she declined stating that she was taking morphine and other prescription pain medications that would make it difficult for her to travel.) The Sheriff’s Office sent a captain and a county health injury prevention coordinator to meet with the woman in Las Vegas. A few days prior to the meeting, private investigators observed her driving to and working out at her gym. Even though the woman reaffirmed she had debilitating injuries during the meeting, 30 minutes later she was observed at a daycare center walking normally and at a gym working out. (Go figure.)

It is estimated that if the 41-year-old former Santa Clara County Sheriff lieutenant had been successful in continuing the false workers’ compensation claims, she would have collected about $3.3 million in disability retirement payments over her lifetime. It is important to note that this woman has not been convicted of workers’ compensation fraud and she is innocent until proven guilty. (But think of it this way – cameras don’t lie. In fact, they tell a story. But, in this case it remains to be seen what kind of ending this story will have.)

Today’s “Fraud of the Day” is based on an article entitled, “Santa Clara County Sheriff lieutenant arraigned for allegedly bodybuilding while claiming disability,” published by The Mercury News on February 1, 2019.

When investigators met her at a Las Vegas-area Starbucks last year, they recalled Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Lt. Mandy Henderson walking slowly and gingerly, leaning on her husband’s arm to steady herself. In the middle of their conversation, she even reportedly stopped to lie down on a bench after complaining of deep pain.

All of it was planned, detectives say, to secure millions of dollars in potential disability benefits. In the days before and after that coffee shop meeting, the 41-year-old was actively engaged in bodybuilding — all caught on camera.

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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.