Call it sweet justice that the crustaceans caught by a man while he received workers' comp benefits came back to pinch him.
William Fennelly was sentenced in December to seven months in jail for two felony counts of perjury related to a workers' comp fraud investigation initiated by the Maine Employers' Mutual Insurance Co.
"In many ways, this case is typical in that it seems clear that Fennelly was caught up in a simple web of lies," said Michael Bourque, vice president, corporate marketing and communications, at MEMIC, the workers' comp insurer of Fennelly's two employers.
How was the web unraveled? Fennelly was collecting benefits for a back injury suffered in December 2000, but in March 2002, when the benefits stopped due to earnings reported from another company, he filed a second back injury claim. Fennelly was soon caught red-handed--that is, investigators noticed the man's rough, calloused hands.
"Despite his repeated denials, it was apparent that these were the hands of a working man," Bourque said.
Investigators turned up records from a local lobster pound showing Fennelly sold catches between May 2001 and June 2002. They uncovered other jobs he held while collecting benefits. Yet Fennelly still spun more lies, this time under oath. When a subpoena turned up a bank account with deposited checks from the lobster pound and other jobs, investigators had netted their man.
"Persistence is important in these cases," Bourque said. "In the end, Mr. Fennelly was prosecuted for perjury, not for fraud, but he is being held accountable."
According to Bourque, MEMIC checks a higher percentage of cases for fraud than many insurers, between 15 percent and 20 percent. The company pursues cases when work history is sketchy, the claimant appears to be "doctor shopping" or when workers have an unwitnessed injury. In most cases, Bourque said, investigators confirm the injury.
"If someone is injured and tells the truth, they have no concern whatsoever," Bourque said.
February 1, 2007
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