Workcover fraud is frowned on by all. Deepening the stereotype to those who sustain legitimate injury. Time and time again, it is important to remind readers that only 1% 9or less) of injured workers defraud the system. Media sensationalisation has tarred injured workers with an unjust false brush….
Stereotypes of workcover fraudulence through workplaces turn injured workers into criminals. Insurance companies and medical professionals are not naive of the patho-physiology of workplace injury. They know how an injury is likely to progress with and without medical assistance. This makes “faking” injuries difficult. Pathology results will support injury and its processes.
When co-workers are educated, the situation falls into perspective and the ignorance generated by the stereotypes diminishes. In this “fraud” case it’s not disclosed in these articles the full particulars of this injured workers case history or why/how this verdict was reached.
The extremity of the sentence,(16 months) suggests this will not be an uncommon practice in the future. The 95% of honest injured workers would like this practice of jail sentencing workcover fraud to be extended far beyond the parameters of injured workers. Jail sentences for ALL who fraudulently and deceptively take advantage of Workcover for their own financial gain, mismanagement practices, abusing workcover funding, including those who abuse and show willful negligence to the injured worker. Time will eventually tell where the balance of fairness will rest.
Worker jailed for ‘breathtakingly audacious’ WorkCover Vic fraud
An injured worker who fraudulently obtained $112,000 in benefits, after falsely claiming to be wheelchair-bound and in need of 24-hour care, has been jailed for 16 months in Victoria, but will appeal the sentence.
Ms M, 44, of Epping, appeared at the Heidelberg Magistrates’ Court last week after pleading guilty in August 2012 to one count of fraudulently obtaining weekly compensation payments and seven of providing false information.
Information falsified by carers, too
The court heard that M’s leg was amputated below the knee in 1990 as the result of a 1985 workplace injury.
Between July 2008 and June 2010, M visited 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 Victoria investigation showed M could move freely on her prosthetic leg and was capable of living independently.
The court heard the investigation also found six carers submitted $52,500 in attendant care invoices during that same period for services they never provided to M and split the proceeds with her. Two of the carers were M’s nieces.
In 2011, the six carers were charged with various offences under the Crimes Act and the Accident Compensation Act, including falsifying records and providing false information.
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 M for 16 months, with eight months of her sentence suspended for two years. She was also ordered to repay $112,000.
M’s lawyer has lodged an appeal against the sentence. She was bailed to appear at the County Court in March.
Legitimate cases undermined
WorkSafe’s injury support and service executive director, Len Boehm, said cases like this 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,’ he said.
‘While [M] 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 fraud of this deliberate scale. It undermines those who are hurt, particularly those with a capacity to work.’
‘It plants a perception that a large number of people on compensation have fraudulent claims. That is absolutely not the case and I know it is immensely frustrating for those who do the right thing when they hear about cases like this.’
‘We want this case to serve as a reminder that fraudulent activity will not be tolerated. When it’s detected, it will be investigated and offenders prosecuted.’