Psychologist and doctor charged with fraudulent workers’ compensation evaluations in Central Valley
News: 2019 Press Release
FRESNO, Calif. — Psychologist Danita Stewart, 51, of Chatsworth, and Dr. Catalino Dureza, 54, of La Quinta, have been charged for allegedly submitting fraudulent insurance claims for Medical Legal Evaluations in an attempt to steal tens of thousands of dollars from multiple insurers.
“Workers’ compensation insurance fraud is a multi-billion dollar drain on our state’s economy,” said Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara. “It is crucial that we work with our partners in law enforcement to catch fraudsters like these who are contributing to higher insurance premiums for all Californians.”
Stewart, a licensed psychologist, allegedly submitted 36 fraudulent insurance claims between April 2015 and June 2015 to five different insurers for Medical Legal Evaluations for a total of $90,714. A Medical Legal Evaluation is conducted to evaluate an employee’s work-related injury. Even though Stewart was a licensed psychologist she has never been certified as a Qualified Medical Examiner as required by law to conduct and bill for Medical Legal Evaluations. Stewart allegedly conducted these fraudulent evaluations at clinics in Fresno, Tulare, and Kern Counties.
Dureza, a licensed medical doctor, had obtained the proper certification to conduct and bill for Medical Legal Evaluations, but his certification lapsed. Dureza allegedly continued to conduct and bill for Medical Legal Evaluations, and once he was recertified he conducted and billed for unauthorized Medical Legal Evaluations. Between January 2014 and May 2015, Dureza allegedly submitted 17 fraudulent insurance claims for Medical Legal Evaluations conducted in Fresno County to five different insurers for a total of $16,292.
These cases were investigated by the Central Valley Workers’ Compensation Task Force, an anti-fraud partnership which includes the California Department of Insurance, the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office, the Tulare County District Attorney’s Office, the Kern County District Attorney’s Office, the Kings County District Attorney’s Office, the Madera County District Attorney’s Office, the Merced County District Attorney’s Office, the Employment Development Department, and the Franchise Tax Board.
Stewart and Dureza posted bond yesterday. Stewart will be arraigned on May 10, 2019. Dureza will be arraigned on May 20, 2019. The Fresno County District Attorney’s Office is prosecuting the cases.
- Danita Stewart was charged with 36 felony counts of PC550(a)(1), and 1 felony count of PC550(a)(7).
- Catalino Dureza was charged with 17 felony counts of Insurance Code 1871.4(a)(1).
Led by Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, the California Department of Insurance is the consumer protection agency for the nation's largest insurance marketplace and safeguards all of the state’s consumers by fairly regulating the insurance industry. Under the Commissioner’s direction, the Department uses its authority to protect Californians from insurance rates that are excessive, inadequate, or unfairly discriminatory, oversee insurer solvency to pay claims, set standards for agents and broker licensing, perform market conduct reviews of insurance companies, resolve consumer complaints, and investigate and prosecute insurance fraud. Consumers are urged to call 1-800-927-4357 with any questions or contact us at www.insurance.ca.gov via webform or online chat. Non-media inquiries should be directed to the Consumer Hotline at 800-927-4357. Teletypewriter (TTY), please dial 800-482-4833.