Workers compensation fraud doesn’t always know state boundaries.
Recently, Utah resident Benjie Leroy Christensen plead guilty in Lewis & Clark County District Court to felony theft for receiving Montana workers comp permanent disability payments for six years while he was actually performing construction work.
In September 2014, Christensen, 52, was accused of defrauding the Montana State Fund for $97,352.71 in wage loss, medical, and prescription benefits he received from 2008 to 2014.
Christensen pleaded guilty to the felony theft charge in District Court in Helena and was sentenced in May to 10 years at the Montana Department of Corrections; all were suspended and Christensen will remain on supervision. He was also ordered to pay restitution to Montana State Fund in the amount of $97,352.71.
Assistant Attorney General Mary Cochenour alleged Christensen lied about being permanently disabled after sustaining injuries while working at Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge in 2000 and again in 2001. Christensen was found to be permanently disabled by a physician in January 2004, and began receiving permanent total disability payments from Montana State Fund in April 2004.
Constructing a Case for Workers Comp Fraud
Seven years later, a registered nurse was sent to Christensen’s home in Vernal, Utah to evaluate his condition because Christensen and his doctor had failed to communicate with Montana State Fund. The nurse noted Christensen was in good physical condition, and that there were several construction tools on his front porch.
In 2012, Christensen told a Salt Lake City physician during another medical evaluation that he couldn’t lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk and that his wife took care of him because he couldn’t be left alone.
However, investigators from the Montana Department of Justice’s Division of Criminal Investigation and Montana State Fund learned after observing surveillance video footage in 2013 that Christensen was actively engaged in construction activities, including walking up and down a ladder several times, lifting pieces of lumber, stacking lumber, and throwing lumber.
Last year, the State’s investigators visited homeowners who had hired Christensen for construction work, and learned that he owned a business named B & C Construction, which he advertised on Facebook.
Investigators also learned that Christensen had been paid more than $202,000 for work he had completed as a subcontractor in Utah from 2010-13. The State’s investigators also discovered that Christensen had applied for four other work comp claims in Utah between 1987 and 1989.
Author Kori Shafer-Stack, Editor, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in post-injury response procedures and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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