Cop Whacked with Fraud Charges; North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Pundits Delve into the Case

December 18, 2010, by Michael A. DeMayo

On December 8, New York police arrested Kevin Schwebke, a 26-year-old corrections officer, for felony grade workers’ comp fraud. North Carolina workers’ compensation pundits and others who follow stories about fraud and corruption in the world of workers’ comp, have been hotly discussing the legal and even moral implications of this matter.

First, the facts. Schwebke had been working at the Coxsackie Correctional Facility in 2009 when he got into an accident on the job that damaged his ankles. After undergoing surgery, Schwebke went on workers’ compensation. Up until Wednesday, he had amassed $34,000 in payments. Meanwhile, Schwebke continued working for the Cairo Police Department on a part-time basis – in violation of his workers’ comp arrangement. The Chief of Police, Chris Sprague, said that he had not been aware that Schwebke had been collecting workers’ comp.

If convicted of the class E felony charge, Schwebke could face a seven-year state prison sentence. He will appear at Albany County Court to face the charges at a later date.

This seemingly simple case has some very interesting implications. Let’s just say that the 26-year-old did in fact lie about his physical condition to collect the $34,000 illegally.

Is it really fair to punish someone for this level of minor fraud with seven years in state prison? Doesn’t that seem somewhat excessive, from a common sense standard? Obviously, you don’t want to reward workers’ comp fraud or encourage it in any way. But at least theoretically, it’s odd that someone who commits such a relatively minor crime (from a purely monetary standpoint) should be subjected to such a harsh potential jail sentence, especially when you consider that much more serious white collar crimes, like corporate fraud and embezzlement, often carry less punitive consequences.

On the other hand, North Carolina workers’ compensation fraud is a profound problem, not just in terms of the money it leeches from the system but also in terms of the culture of distrust it creates. When insurers can’t trust whether claimants are telling the truth, they ratchet up investigations and force legitimately hurt workers to jump through more hoops. When stories like Schwebke’s break, employers become more suspicious of their workers. It’s hard to quantify how all this distrust percolates through the system, but the toxic atmosphere surely drains time, resources, and money and makes it more difficult for the system to function effectively – that is, to rehabilitate legitimately hurt workers and get North Carolina’s workforce up and running at maximum effectiveness.

Have you been having trouble collecting your benefits due to your employer’s lack of cooperation or an insurance company’s recalcitrance? Whatever your issues, you may benefit greatly from engaging in an free confidential consultation with a reliable North Carolina workers’ compensation law firm today.

More Web Resources:

Kevin Schwebke’s arrest

Corrections officer accused of fraudulently accepting $34,000 in workers comp