A California workers’ compensation hearing officer was arrested for allegedly trying to steal a settlement check from his client.
Department of Insurance detectives arrested Ramon Humerto Otero, 37, of Adelanto, and Efrain Heredia Ojeda, 43, of Corona, on multiple felony counts of insurance fraud and grand theft.
The men allegedly conspired to steal an $18,946 settlement check intended for a client whose workers’ comp case Otero was presiding over and who passed away before the settlement with the insurer was achieved.
Otero, a hearing officer for the law offices of Ramon Otero Jr., reportedly negotiated a workers’ comp settlement agreement for his client. During the course of the negotiation, his client died. Otero proceeded with negotiations and reported to the insurer that his client’s address changed.
Suspecting fraud, the State Compensation Insurance Fund referred the claim to the California Department of Insurance for investigation.
According to detectives, they found evidence that Otero instructed the insurer to mail the settlement check to the residence of Ojeda, an interpreter and close associate of Otero. Ojeda allegedly forged the deceased’s signature to endorse the settlement check and deposited it into his personal bank account.
“Insurance fraud is not a victimless crime,” Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said in a statement. “These types of crimes negatively impact consumers, insurers and California’s economy.”
Otero was booked into the Inmate Reception Center in Los Angeles. Ojeda was booked into the Robert Presley Detention Center in Riverside. Both face a maximum five-year prison sentence if convicted on all counts. This case is being prosecuted by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
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