- GOP hopes taking shutdown off the table with budget deal will pay dividends
- Chinese Death Star: The moon cited as the perfect launch pad for ballistic missiles
- Help wanted: Homeland Security plagued by vacancies at the top
- We are not amused: Queen’s protection officers warned to keep ‘sticky fingers’ off the royal cashews
- Unleash the crossbows: Gov. Scott Walker creates new hunting season
- Bubonic plague kills 20 in Madagascar
- G-20 diplomats fell for hacker attack promising nude photos of former French first lady Carla Bruni
- Minnesota guardsman charged with stealing private soldier data for fake IDs
- Florida appeals court rules universities can’t regulate guns
- Vladimir Putin defends Russian conservative values
Feds use video surveillance to catch fraud for workers’ comp
The husband and wife postal workers at a North Carolina mail-sorting plant were out of work and collecting disability benefits when they first came under surveillance.
Acting on an anonymous tip, agents with the U.S. Postal Service's Office of Inspector General went undercover for two months. They used video cameras to document the activities of the couple, who had claimed they could not work because sitting more than 15 minutes caused pain and swelling, records show.
The agents followed the husband and wife either alone or together driving, gambling and mowing the lawn, among other activities. The couple faced criminal charges and, after a three-day trial in January, convictions for crimes involving workers’ compensation benefits.
The case wasn’t unusual. The Postal Service inspector general is one of a handful of investigative agencies whose use of video surveillance to target disability fraud was singled out in a recent congressional report. The Government Accountability Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress, disclosed the surveillance practices as part of a broader review of workers’ compensation fraud controls at a half-dozen agencies across government.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has an internal affairs unit to review potential fraud and make referrals to investigators, who in turn conduct video surveillance, according to the GAO.
The GAO also said the Air Force plans to hire staff early in fiscal 2012 to perform background checks and conduct surveillance to make sure recipients are entitled to benefits. And a recent Navy investigation noted in the same report how one workers’ compensation recipient was “an active owner of a gentleman’s club” while fraudulently collecting disability benefits.
Still, the GAO also found that agencies face challenges investigating and prosecuting such cases. For one thing, so-called “targeted investigations” can be costly and resource-intensive, the GAO said. What’s more, the “limited resources” of some federal prosecutors make it hard to bring fraud cases involving less than $100,000, the Postal Service inspector general’s office told the GAO.
Other Defense Department investigative agencies, meanwhile, told congressional investigators that they don’t normally invest resources to investigate workers’ compensation fraud, citing higher priority areas such as violent crime and anti-terrorism.
Still, successful cases “can help deter future fraud and ultimately save money,” the GAO found.
In another case, which the Postal Service’s inspector general cited recently in a separate report to Congress, agents used video surveillance to investigate a former postal custodian in Bell, Calif., who was collecting workers’ compensation while doing home improvement projects and loading plywood onto a truck.
A Michigan letter carrier collecting workers’ compensation was seen regularly exercising at the local YMCA “where she was observed bending, twisting, weightlifting and performing various activities beyond her stated disabilities,” according to an inspector general report.
And in Pennsylvania, a letter carrier pleaded guilty in June in yet another workers’ compensation case. The employee picked up heavy boxes and sacks of asphalt, officials said. Out of work since 1994 because of a back injury, the employee had worked in the auto shop for five years, according to investigators.
Christopher Slobogin, a Vanderbilt University professor and privacy analyst, said government agents should be free to observe a suspect in public places as long as they have a good reason.
“If the government is going to try to prevent fraudulent behavior, then it has to be able to to investigate potential fraud … so long as the government has some reason to suspect that behavior and the surveillance is a public activity,” he said.
But he said government agencies shouldn’t dispatch surveillance investigators to conduct random spot checks of workers’ compensation recipients.
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
- Stung by defeat: SEC hires trial consultants
- Solaria? Solyndra? Feds bailed on promising solar company, lawsuit says
- Last call: State Dept. bought $180,000 in liquor before shutdown
- Federal prosecutors drop charges against defendants who disappeared
- Bankrupt energy company probed
Latest Blog Entries
By Mangosuthu Buthelezi
Memories of a long brotherhood tempered in common struggle
- Obama's Afghanistan experts stumped on U.S. death toll, war costs during hearing
- NAPOLITANO: A conspiracy so vast
- Inside China: Ukraine gets nuke umbrella
- House votes for bargain to end budget drama
- Chinese man fed up with his girlfriend's shopping jumps to his death
- Comma on!: Twitter erupts over Obama-Castro 'marriage'
- 80 people publicly executed across North Korea for films, Bibles
- U.S. pilot scares off Iranians with 'Top Gun'-worthy stunt: 'You really ought to go home'
- Somber duty: U.S. presidents in hot demand at Mandela's memorial
- MALCOLM/REIMER: Over-criminalization undermines respect for legal system
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
Consummate traveler Todd DeFeo explores the unique stories that make destinations worth going to.
Covering the world of soccer, including the World Cup, Major League Soccer, D.C. United and the English Premier League and other interesting sporting events.
Born in 1930 in rural Missouri, Charles Vandegriffe, Sr., brings his time and place to the Communities.
Columns from Voices around the World talking about the events, people, politics and social issues that concern us wherever, and whoever, we are.
Extraordinary day at Redskins Park
White House pets gone wild!
Let it snow