Friday, April 11, 2014

Couple sentenced for workers' comp fraud

VICTORVILLE • A former special needs instructional aide is due in court Tuesday for a hearing on restitution after she pleaded no contest to felony workers’ compensation fraud.

Melinda O’Connor, 56, of Victorville, entered into the plea bargain earlier this year. Her boyfriend, 58-year-old David Muro, also of Victorville, was convicted of aiding and abetting the fraud, court records show.

The charges stemmed from a 2013 investigation by the San Bernardino County Workers’ Compensation Insurance Fraud Unit, officials said Thursday.

Out of work since April 2009 when she mis-stepped and sprained her ankle, O’Connor filed a claim for benefits and “received medical treatment for several years with little to no improvement,” the District Attorney’s office said in a written statement.

But surveillance video obtained during the course of the investigation showed O’Connor was not truthful about her alleged injuries, officials said.

“On one particular day, the video surveillance revealed O’Connor and Muro arriving at one of O’Connor’s doctor appointments,” Deputy District Attorney Scott Byrd said.

“While previous surveillance revealed O’Connor going about her activities without the assistance of medical devices, she all of a sudden was carrying a cane, wearing an ankle brace and was using a wheelchair.”

Muro “helped O’Connor perpetuate the fraud” by pushing her wheelchair, officials said. Thirty minutes after leaving the doctor’s appointment, the two were seen walking into a local restaurant and O’Connor — without cane, ankle brace or wheelchair — needed no assistance, according to the District Attorney’s office.

O’Connor was sentenced to three years of supervised probation, 30 days in jail and ordered to perform 100 hours of community service. Meanwhile, Muro was sentenced to 15 days in jail, court records show.

Each had 15 days shaved off their sentences for time served.

District Attorney Michael Ramos said this type of fraud cost the state $360 million in the last fiscal year.

“This type of criminal behavior not only increases costs to law abiding businesses, but ultimately to all of us as consumers,” Ramos said in a written statement. “I urge you to report any suspected fraudulent activity when you see it.”

Individuals who suspect someone is defrauding the workers’ compensation system can report the case to the county’s Workers’ Compensation Fraud unit at 909-891-3344 or DAWorkersComp@sbcda.org.

Visit SBCountyDA.org for more information.

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