Injured Worker Jailed for Workers Comp Fraud
An injured Australian worker committed workers comp fraud by receiving $112,000 in benefits after falsely claiming to be wheelchair-bound and requiring 24-hour care recently received a jail sentence of 16 months.
According to a report from WorkSafe, Rita Mercuri, 44, of Epping was in the Heidelberg Magistrates’ Court after offering her guilty plea in August 2012 on a single count of fraudulently obtaining weekly compensation payments and seven of providing false information.
The court was told that Mercuri’s leg was amputated beneath the knee in 1990 due to a 1985 workplace injury.
Defendant Claimed She Was Unable to Work
Between July 2008 and June 2010, Mercuri went to medical practitioners and claimed she was wheelchair-bound, unable to work and in need of 24-hour care.
During this period, she received $59,687 in compensation payments, but video surveillance obtained in a WorkSafe investigation showed Mercuri could move freely on her prosthetic leg and was capable of living independently.
The court heard the investigation also discovered half-a-dozen care givers submitted $52,500 in attendant care invoices during that same period for services that were never given to Mercuri. They split the proceeds with Mercuri. Two of the care givers were her nieces.
In 2011, the six care givers were charged with various offences under the Crimes Act and the Accident Compensation Act, including falsifying records and providing false information.
Magistrate Points Out Exploitation By Defendant
In sentencing, Magistrate Suzanne Cameron said Mercuri’s offending was “breathtakingly audacious” and that she exploited the WorkCover scheme for her own benefit.
“You were clearly the mastermind and the primary beneficiary,” she said.
Magistrate Cameron jailed Mercuri for 16 months, with eight months of her sentence suspended for two years. She was also ordered to repay $112,000. Mercuri’s lawyer has lodged an appeal against the sentence. She was bailed to appear at the County Court in March.
According to WorkSafe Injury Support & Service Executive Director Len Boehm, cases such as this one undermined legitimate cases that needed financial support and care.
“Our scheme exists to provide short medium and long term care where it is warranted and ultimately to help people return to work and social interaction.
“While Ms. Mercuri had suffered a serious injury and was entitled to help, she consistently overstated the extent of her incapacity for a number of years. The community can’t tolerate workers comp fraud of this deliberate scale. It undermines those who are hurt, particularly those with a capacity to work,” Boehm commented.
Author Michael B. Stack, CPA, Director of Operations, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in employer communication systems and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. He is a writer, speaker, and website publisher. www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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