- Dean Smith
10 Years of Workers’ Compensation Fraud: Montana Woman Sentenced to 15-Month Federal Prison Term and
Deborah Durand, 55-year-old Montana native and former U.S. Postal Service employee, spent approximately 10 years, from 2006 until 2016, on “total disability” after suffering a back injury on the job that required surgery, and has since received over $636,000 in wages, medical expenses, and other benefits from the U.S. Department of Labor.
According to the Great Falls Tribune, the U.S. Attorney’s Office reported that Durand did not return back to work after her back surgery when she was physically ready, and instead filed for total disability status.
Time passed, and investigators with the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General began looking into Durand’s activities while out on disability. Evidence collected showed Durand “feeding horses, lifting hay bales, jogging in the morning, removing stumps from fallen trees, and other physical activities at her home in Montana.”
In December of 2014, investigators sent Durand a “fake” survey for her to complete, and upon return, she listed camping and kayaking as two of her outdoor activities. Investigators took it a step further in April 2015 and contacted Durand, “posing as members of a marketing company, saying she had won a free kayaking trip.” And away they went. In July of 2015, investigators and Durand sat side-by-side on a 3-day, 2-night kayaking tour off the coast of Washington State, which consisted of approximately four to seven hours of kayaking per day, with an approximate total of 12 miles.
Another “marketing” survey followed the trip, and “Durand reportedly said the physical demands of the trip were not difficult because ‘I’m fairly strong.’”
Durand was indicted on charges of fraudulently obtaining employee’s compensation, wire fraud, false claims relating to worker’s compensation benefits, and theft of government property in May 2016, convicted in August 2016, and sentenced in U.S. District Court last month to serve a 15-month prison term, and was also ordered to pay over $900,000 in restitution and criminal forfeiture.
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