A Baltimore postal worker has been convicted of faking a disability to get government benefits for seven years, the Justice Department recently announced.
Colette Lee began working as a letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service in 2003. She lied on the medical history questionnaire she had to fill out when she was hired, omitting that “she had an active injury claim; had been previously treated in the emergency room; had been in physical therapy programs; and had CT scans.”
It wasn’t until 2007 that she filed her first disability claim, saying she was injured on the job and entitled to worker’s compensation. She filed claims again in 2008, and twice more in 2009. For seven years, from 2007 until her scam was discovered in 2014, she received thousands in wages and disability benefits for the alleged work-related injuries.
In a 2012 interview about her injuries, she denied that she’d had any before working for the Postal Service, and said that “she could not open her car door with her right hand; claimed that she drove her vehicle with her left hand while keeping her right hand down, needed to take breaks every 20 to 25 minutes, and could not use both hands to turn the steering wheel; advised that she could not grasp items with her right hand and had to ask people for assistance when shopping; and stated that she could not play with her son.”
Video surveillance tapes documenting her behavior between 2010 and 2014 exposed her lies, however. “Agents observed Lee opening and unlocking her car door with her right hand, driving her vehicle at times with only her right hand, driving long periods without breaks, using her right hand to lift herself into a van, using both hands to maneuver the steering wheel, grasping items with her right hand, talking on her cell phone with her right hand, shopping by herself while grabbing items and unloading items without any assistance, and playing with children while running, walking, lifting, bending, and riding a bike.”
Furthermore, “Insurance records also showed that Lee had prior injuries from motor vehicle accidents that she did not report during the August 23, 2012 interview.”
Not content with her ill-gotten worker’s comp, she also filed for food stamps in 2010, 2011, and 2012, without disclosing the benefits she was receiving through the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act.
“Taxpayers foot the bill for phony disability claims by government workers,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. “Postal employee Colette Lee filed a fraudulent disability claim in 2007 and kept the scam going for seven years until she was caught. This case is an insult to taxpayers and honest government employees.”
Lee has agreed to pay $244,912.65 in restitution and faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison. She is scheduled for sentencing on February 2, 2015.