Police Officer Theft Charge Stimulates Discussion among North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Analysts

September 13, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

Policy wonks and ethicists in the North Carolina workers’ compensation community have been riveted by a case unfolding in nearby Waynesboro, Pennsylvania. Allegedly, a local police officer there stole over $22,000 workers’ comp checks over an eight-month period (from September 7, 2009 to May 3, 2010). The officer, Derrick Lange, hurt himself in an August 2009 foot pursuit and had to see a hand specialist for ongoing pain in his hand and wrist. After a specialist advised him to stay off of work after surgery, Lange began collecting workers’ comp payouts. But Lange later made an agreement that allowed him to collect his regular salary as long as he turned over the worker comp checks that he had collected.

Apparently, the 31-year-old officer ignored the terms of arrangement and actually deposited the checks into his bank account. Eventually, the insurance company that represents the Waynesboro Municipality caught on and alerted local authorities, who arrested Lange on Tuesday, September 7th and held him on a $15,000 bail. A September 21st preliminary hearing has been scheduled. Lange faces charges of theft by failure to deposit the funds that he received.

As this case illustrates nicely, abuses of the North Carolina workers’ compensation system can take many forms and can be years in the making. Individuals who defraud the system or cheat insurance companies or lie about their injuries can not only suffer grievous legal consequences – including having money stripped away from them and having to serve jail time (in some cases) – but they also endanger the efficacy of the entire system. For instance, an act of fraud has a “ricochet effect” throughout the system: insurers tend to trust claimants less and so they subject them to more bureaucracy and more invasive follow up. When money gets siphoned out of the system, employers and insurers try to make up those costs by doing things like cutting benefits, jacking up rates, and scrimping on service to save.

All this is to say that, if you or someone you care about wants to pursue a claim, make sure that you “dot all the Is and cross all the Ts” and that you stay away from anything even vaguely resembling illicit or unethical action. All that said, just because you play fair doesn’t mean that your employer or a responsible insurance company will play fair with you. To that end, if you are having trouble with any aspect of your claim, connect with a competent and battle proven North Carolina workers’ compensation law firm to develop a strategy to get the compensation due to you efficiently and quickly.

More Web Resources:

The saga of Derrick Lange

Waynesboro police officer Derek Lange arrested for theft after allegedly stealing more than $22,000 in worker’s compensation checks