News: 2010 Press Release
For Release: February 17, 2010
Media Calls Only: 916-492-3566
Insurance Commissioner Poizner Announces No Contest Plea from Commerce Man in Workers' Comp Fraud Case
California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner today announced that Richard Lewis Johnson, 49, of City of Commerce pled no contest Feb. 4 to one count of grand theft of workers' compensation payments and was placed on three years probation and ordered to pay $20,714 in restitution to Avizent Risk Management.
"Fighting workers' compensation fraud continues to be a priority for our department and anyone who thinks they can get away with defrauding the system is dead wrong," Commissioner Poizner said. "We will catch you and help prosecute you and protect the system that provides benefits to those who were legitimately injured on the job."
Detectives from the California Department of Insurance (CDI) were alerted to the alleged fraud by Avizent's Special Investigations Unit in April 2009. Avizent reported that Johnson advised them that on May 28, 2008 he sustained an injury to his right shoulder while working at California United Terminals as a class B longshoreman. At the time of the reported injury Johnson was employed by Pacific Maritime Association.
The day after the reported injury, Johnson saw a chiropractor who then sent him to another doctor where Johnson allegedly lied about the severity of his injury. Avizent processed the claim in accordance with the Longshoreman and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act.
During an internal Avizent investigation, it was alleged that Johnson lied to Avizent's claims adjusters. Avizent set up surveillance on Johnson and witnessed him using his right shoulder with no apparent difficulty despite telling several doctors that his arm was to badly injured and was too painful to use.
Avizent turned its investigation over to CDI, which confirmed Avizent's allegations. CDI turned over its criminal investigation to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Healthcare Fraud Division and on Nov. 12, 2009 the L.A. District Attorney's Office issued a warrant for Johnson's arrest on four counts of workers' compensation insurance fraud.
In addition to the fine and probation, Johnson was ordered to pay court fees and perform 200 hours of community service.
Commissioner Poizner oversees 16 CDI Enforcement Branch regional offices throughout the state. Approximately 2,000 insurance fraud-related arrests have been made by the Department of Insurance's enforcement division since Commissioner Poizner took office in 2007 - more arrests than have been made during any other two year period, under any previous insurance commissioner.
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