Alan Slater passed away in August of 2017. However, his workers’ comp benefits continued to pay out and for the next several months his daughter, Bonnie Slater, got the checks. Ms. Slater was able to ride the gravy train from September through November of that same year until the law finally caught up with her.
Slater, a resident of Randolph, NY, received her late father’s checks, each one a little over $500. She then went and cashed them at a local supermarket.
Eventually, as Alan’s death certificate was processed, the state couldn’t help but notice that a dead man was cashing his workers’ comp checks. The matter was investigated by the office of Letizia Tagliafierro, the Inspector General for the state of New York.
The case reached its conclusion this past November in New York’s Cattaraugus County Court, with Slater pleading guilty before Judge Ronald Ploetz to charges of forgery and larceny. Slater was sentenced to 1 year in jail and will have to pay nearly $4,000 in restitution.
Slater’s case is a low-level example of what is a billion-dollar problem in the United States: workers’ comp fraud. While Slater’s forging a signature of the deceased is audacious, it’s far from being the most common means of defrauding the system.
Workers’ comp fraud is more likely to happen through exaggeration—where an employee makes the injury seem more serious than it actually is in order to stay home and collect benefits for a longer period of time.
A related means of fraud is when an employee continues to work—perhaps at another job besides the one where they were injured, all the while collecting benefits.
Fraud also happens at the top—businesses may falsify reports on how many employees they have in order to lower their premiums.
As a result of this pervasive fraud, investigators have little trouble finding steady work from looking into the legitimacy of claims. Common warning signals they cite are reports being filed either first thing Monday morning or the last thing on Friday afternoon. Some doctors are more likely than others to give their patients a pass in overstating injuries.
Investigators look for patterns in the doctors cited by claimants. There’s also old-fashioned surveillance—i.e. trying to catch the person who says they have a broken leg playing basketball in the yard.