Frank Gallagher, the ne'er-do-well father played by William H. Macy on Showtime's 'Shameless' TV series, may go to great lengths to scam up unemployment compensation, but he's got nothing on the outrageous cheaters Paul Colbert deals with every day.
Cobert has seen crippled people walk, the infirm ride horses and even blind men see again. As a detective and founder of Meridian Investigative Group, a corporation that specializes in investigating workers' compensation fraud, he's concerned that people find it amusing, rather than taking it seriously.
"When people hear about some of the fraud cases we have worked, sometimes I get the feeling they don't have a problem with it, because they think the only people being hurt are the insurance companies," Colbert said. "That notion couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, workers' comp fraud costs the average consumer about $900 a year through increased insurance rates, increased health care costs and revenue stolen from their employers, which reduces their paychecks and bonuses."
Cobert's agency investigates thousands of cases each year, and he's sharing a few he feels are the most compelling and clearly negligent. For legal purposes, the names of the following fraudsters have been changed.
Kristy G: She alleged that her right foot was so injured that she couldn't walk for for extended periods of time or be productive at work. Meridian's video caught her walking into the doctor's office with her crutches and ambulatory aid for her ankle. Later, she was videotaped walking around without the crutches and holding her boot in her hand, trying to hit someone with it, and then stalking off quickly without any aid or signs of disability.
Kathy V: Her alleged injury was to her neck and shoulders, and in her claim, she indicated that she gets regular injections in her arm for the pain, which was so severe she couldn't work. Meridian videotaped her riding in a rodeo competition on two different occasions, after her date of injury.
Eddie R: His alleged injury was to his back, left ankle and heel. He said it prohibited him from working. Meridian's video captured Eddie handily pushing his pickup truck after it stalled.
Burt F: Burt filed a claim stating he had become legally blind due to his workplace injury, but apparently not blind enough to prevent him from working as a maintenance man at an apartment complex. He was captured on video driving a golf cart and performing maintenance duties.
"I see how much these fraudsters cost the system, and those costs are passed on to every consumer in the United States," Cobert said. "Some of us even know people who are getting away with it, and some of them figure, 'Hey, it's cool, someone's finally getting one over on the insurance companies,' but they couldn't be more wrong. All these people are doing is reaching into all of our pockets to pay their rent and go on vacations. It's unfair to the people who go to work every morning -- and some who even work two jobs -- so they can make ends meet honestly."
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