Sacramento Minister Convicted of Workers’ Comp Fraud

May 11, 2004

On May 7, a Sacramento County Superior Court Judge sentenced Benjamin L. Barnes, 37, to 300 days in jail, five years of probation and ordered him to pay State Compensation Insurance Fund $60,000 in restitution following his conviction on eight counts of felony workers’ compensation fraud and one count of perjury.

On November 22, 2000, the Sacramento resident claimed an injury to his leg and back while working as a technician for the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Barnes filed for workers’ compensation benefits with State Compensation Insurance Fund, which administers workers’ compensation claims services for DMV. He told State Fund claim adjusters and physicians that his leg and back pain prevented him from sitting, walking, standing, bending or driving as usual. State Fund accepted Barnes’ claim and soon after issued medical, industrial disability leave and temporary disability benefits. However, a subrosa investigation initiated by State Fund showed Barnes performing activities — that he claimed he could not do — without limitations. State Fund referred their subrosa investigation and other reports to the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office.

Barnes was subsequently arrested by the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office and charged with eight counts of felony workers’ compensation fraud (violation of Section 1871.4(a)(1) of the Insurance Code, conspiracy to unlawfully and knowingly make false statements for the purpose of obtaining compensation). He was also charged with one count of attempted perjury, according to Sacramento Deputy District Attorney Joseph Townsell.

According to investigation reports, Barnes told several of his treating physicians that his work injury limited his daily activities. Subrosa videotapes indicated otherwise. Sacramento County Deputy District Attorney Joseph Townsell said Barnes, who also served as a minister at New Life Family Worship Center in Sacramento, was filmed conducting a gravesite ceremony, driving to and from the worship center and sitting and standing for an extended period. Barnes claimed he was unable to stand for extended periods of time and unable to drive the distance from his home and the worship center, Townsell said.

State Fund paid over $60,000 in medical payments and compensation on Barnes’ claim.

“We hope this conviction further underscores State Fund’s commitment to investigate and combat all types of fraud,” said Donna Gallagher, who manages State Fund’s Fraud Investigation Program (FIP). “Through our Fraud Investigation Program and positive relationships with law enforcement officials, State Fund will maintain its efforts to protect California’s employers, injured workers and the integrity of the workers’ compensation system.”

State Fund’s Fraud Investigation Program (FIP) addresses all aspects of workers’ compensation insurance fraud, including employee, employer, medical, legal and internal. In the last decade, State Fund’s FIP has produced hundreds of arrests and convictions in a wide range of workers’ compensation cases.

Was this article valuable?

Here are more articles you may enjoy.