Disability

Tee It Up

In handling Disability investigations it pays to have a working knowledge of the game of golf. It is remarkable how often one ends up near and some-times on a golf course in pursuit of documentation in the matter of questionable claims.

Sometimes one can prepare and sometimes not. In the case at hand two of us had flown into the subject’s city on short notice.We had picked up the subject exiting his garage and followed, arriving shortly thereafter at an upscale public golf course. Time to think fast. (more…)

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The Telltale Vacuum Cleaner

Featured imageOur subject had been at odds with her employer, and subsequently she went out on a job-related stress disability claim. Later investigation of the cash register and inventory sheets revealed a suspicious development: the company had come up short for several items of merchandise during the employee’s tenure.

DMA Investigations was called upon to locate the employee and conduct surveillance to find out what she was up to while out on her stress claim. The employer told us they suspected she might be trying to start up a cleaning service business. (more…)

Busted on the Fairway Five

Featured imageOur subject was out on a total disability claim, from a back injury. That disability claim was paying our subject enough money to maintain a rather nice lifestyle, which included a late-model luxury car, country club membership, and a gated house in the hills. There was only one problem with this happy scenario – our subject was a fraud, lying through his teeth.

His golf swing was not going to give Tiger Woods a scare at Augusta anytime soon. But it was a beautiful morning on his country club course and you could see our subject was having a very good time. No pain, no hesitation, no problems swinging or picking up the ball. (more…)

The Case of the Telltale Cement

It was the best of times (getting paid without having to work), then it was the worst of times (getting busted). Not an uncommon trajectory for those inclined to fraud, whose daily activities we are asked to monitor and document. But getting this file from “best” to “worst” was no walk in the park and required a highly developed sense of smell as it applies to false claims.

Our subject was a “disabled” construction worker (back, shoulders, wrists). Our first surveillance produced no film of the subject, although we saw plenty of other people in and around his address. A reopen of the investigation several months later looked like itwas going the same route. The investigator canvassed the area and determined our subject had moved and found the new address only a few blocks away. (more…)

Big Versus Small

Featured imageIt is a general belief that in a contest involving force vectors, big will overwhelm small and emerge victorious. And while this is often true, one should not bet the rent money on that outcome.

Our subject for this surveillance was big. Not fat. Big…as in big and strong. Perhaps this was the red flag raised when the subject went out on disability due to knee, shoulder, neck and extremities injuries preventing him from working. (more…)

Ms. Drama Queen

Featured imageThrough years of investigations, I have often found it to be true that “A claim is a solution to a problem, so what is the problem?” In other words, if you find out what the problem is that the person is having, you have the solution to your fraudulent claim.

Something didn’t seem right. A nurse had claimed a significant knee injury. She returned to work, then had to take off again, then back to work, then off again. (more…)

Adrenaline

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Normally investigations don’t involve an excess of adrenaline in the blood system. Or if they do, one has messed up big time. But every now and then, the only way to get a produce requires that an investigator walk where angels fear to tread, which in turn can cause an elevated heart rate.

A recent file of mine is an example of the above. (more…)

Dude, Where’s My Disability Check?

It is amazing what you can do in plain sight in terms of getting film on Southern California beaches. The subjects who file for disability and then head to the ocean to engage in recreation inconsistent with their claimed injuries do not seem to react to camcorders in their vicinity. Perhaps it is the other tourists on the beach taking film to show friends back in snowbound Iowa that provides the camouflage.

In this instance, the subject, if he noticed at all, may have had dreams of being discovered by the movie industry and coming off disability to a starring role. This guy looked so good after two years of being off work, it seemed impossible that anyone had interviewed him as the payments went on and on.

The subject obviously considered himself completely safe from scrutiny after two years. Our first surveillance resulted in excellent film of more than an hour ’s worth of cleaning the home garage, complete with bending, lifting and sweeping. A good start.

Coming back on the weekend, I found him on his way to the beach with a surfboard on top of the car. The weather had been warm so fortunately I was dressed for the beach – shorts, Hawaiian shirt and flip flops. I found a good spot on the beach, set down a towel and proceeded to film the ocean while our subject got ready to surf. Once he was out on the waves, he was completely oblivious to me and the film was perfect.

He finally came out of the water and I thought I was done. Good thing I didn’t leave because he headed directly for the sand volleyball courts and within minutes, he was diving into the sand to save points, leaping above the net to spike, and generally making the activity of surfing appear to be restful.

I was well and truly sunburned by the time he packed it up. But I had some great film, and this guy’s claim was toast. Ultimately the film was turned over to the DOI for prosecution.

The appearance of vibrant good health, a great tan and physical evidence of membership in a well-equipped gym do not normally appear in lists of red flags, but perhaps an addendum would be in order.

A Rural Challenge

A first rule of surveillance in rural areas is: When in Rome do as the Romans do. Or perhaps better stated: Look like what a Roman would expect a stranger to look like. For the last several years in many situations, that has meant: look like you are interested in buying real estate. [Editor’s note: this investigation was done in 2006.]


Our assignment involved a claimant alleging total disability and he was located near a small (population 400) farming community in the middle of Missouri. I arrived just prior to Labor Day weekend and quickly realized this was not going to be a walk in the park.

First, the Mapquest to the claimant’s only known address led to the fifth row of a cornfield. Second, Labor Day was approaching rapidly and every store and public facility in town was closing. We knocked on the door of the tiny City Hall, the only known repository of records, but got no answer. It looked like it was shut down tight already. Main Street was deserted. But the experienced investigator knows where he can get information even when faced with such daunting absences – the nearest bar.

Finding the bar was easy, but soon I was striking out once again. Asked about land I “heard” our claimant had for sale, the bartender knew nothing. The few patrons in the place knew nothing. I stepped back into the dusty street with an uneasy feeling and not one good idea of where to go next.

But I was rewarded for not staying in the bar to enjoy several cold ones and feel sorry for myself. A woman approached and asked if I had knocked on her door. Turns out she was City Hall staff, by herself in the office and on the phone, thus unable to answer the door. One thing led to another and pretty soon I was studying a map showing the location of every house in town.

I soon arrived at the residence I found on the map, and confirmed it was the home of our claimant. But the test of investigator will was not over. There was no activity. I waited and still nothing, totally quiet. Some digging was in order and once again I resorted to an establishment purveying liquid refreshment.

This time, closer to the residence, I came up with what I needed. The claimant was possibly building a house in a nearby town, and was known to be in Southern Missouri attending a wedding. Best of all he was expected to be home later that night.

The next day I followed the claimant from his house out to a farm ten miles outside of town. That was easy, but it turned out this assignment, as a test of investigator will, was the proverbial Bar Exam or SAT. There was no place to park outside of obvious view. Farmhouse, fields and the road –

that was all there was. No trees, no stone outcrops, not another parked car within five miles. No hills with vantage points from which to view the farm.

Your tireless investigator proceeded to the last resort — staging a vehicle breakdown off the side of the highway just beyond the claimant’s farm (and disconnecting the battery in case the claimant proved to be a helpful type, which he did not). The claimant ignored the vehicle with its hood up and just continued with his farm work. I was thankful for this attitude as I sat in the back with video rolling.

As any professor of agriculture (or five year old child) will tell you, farm work is not an appropriate use of time for the totally disabled. Just looking at the video of our claimant cruising by on a tractor, bouncing around over rough ground, and manhandling bales of hay makes me want to lie down and take a nap.

Our video was the end of that claim. And in my estimation, a pass with flying colors on this particular test of investigator will.