Tampa, FL (WorkersCompensation.com) – Workers’ compensation fraud hurts everyone. It can cause premiums to go up, increase litigation, and burden the court system as well as the prosecutor’s office. However, that did not stop a Father-Daughter couple from engaging in a scheme to defraud an employer/carrier.
Samuel Ecker and his daughter Jenny Stine now face felony charges for their actions. Their scheme, which went on for weeks, involved essentially lying that he had not received workers’ compensation checks and trying to collect the same benefits twice, authorities said. Ironically, it was Ecker himself who contacted the police to investigate the matter.
The scheme went something like this. Ecker would receive a workers’ compensation check, then get his daughter to forge his signature and send it to a bank in Chicago which turned it into a pre-paid Visa card. Ecker would then claim that he never received the check and would seek the same benefit again.
Ecker and his daughter claimed that the checks were stolen in the mailing process. This would require the employer/carrier to send another check. However, the two needed a police report to trigger the stolen check process, which was the reason he called the police.
But this was only one of the claimant’s problems. Officials say Ecker was never really injured at work in the first place. He went to a job site that was closed, fell, and told his family that he had slipped in the mud at work. However, he didn’t have any mud on him when he came into the house.
Claims from injured worker that they don’t get their checks in time is not uncommon, but it is rare to see someone go to such lengths to defraud the employer/carrier who seemed to be paying the benefits owed.
This in theory would have also required the employer/carrier to defend an indemnity claim that could include penalties and interest, not to mention a possible attorney’s fee. This is why having an up-to-date address for the claimant is so important in handling these claims.
Crime never pays, but it is ironic that the claimant invited the police to investigate his fraudulent scheme. Some might also say the most morally outrageous part of this story is that he involved his daughter who could now face several counts of forgery.
Workers’ compensation fraud is a serious matter and claimants are required at various stages of the claim to sign statements that they are telling the truth about what they are asking for. Committing fraud can hamper their ability to receive benefits and as we see here, potentially result in a criminal penalty.
However, it should be noted workers’ compensation fraud committed by injured workers is not always like this. Oftentimes, it can come in the form of using a false social security number, failing to report pre-existing conditions, making a misrepresentation about physical abilities or conditions, or making false statements to a doctor or in a deposition. Misrepresentation is an affirmative defense that has to be proven by the employer/carrier in litigation.