HOUSTON - Disability and workers' compensation fraud cost taxpayers millions of dollars a year.
People take advantage of a benefit meant to help in a time of need. But government agencies are cracking down -- hiring private eyes -- to catch fraudsters in the act.
Crystel Riedling, 44, uses her right arm at Disney World again and again. Video taken by undercover agents was just one piece of evidence federal prosecutors used to prove their disability fraud case against her.
According to court documents, the Army veteran claimed 100 percent disability on that right arm for more than six years, collecting nearly $304,000 in taxpayer-funded disability payments.
Riedling didn't know a team of federal investigators was watching her Disney vacation, obtaining enough video evidence to expose her lie.
Riedling was found guilty by a federal jury. She had no comment when asked for a response to the allegations.
Prosecutors argued the government theft would have continued if they hadn't been tipped off by Riedlings' physicians.
But citing her decorated military service and pleas for mercy, the judge eliminated jail time, ruling she is disabled, just not 100 percent. He sentenced Riedling to three years supervised probation and six months home detention.
Private investigator Marshall Boykin exposes insurance fraud. He showed us similar videos of workers' compensation and disability fraud cases. He said, the people on these videos show no signs of the disabilities they claim to have.
"To a lot of people, it's a quicker way to get paid," Boykin said.
Another fraud being tracked: organized groups of people staging accidents and weaving in doctors and pain clinics to expand the scheme.
One complex racketeering scheme took in more than $100,000 by fraudulently billing at least 20 different insurance carriers. It was disrupted back in 2012, but criminals just find new ways to keep insurance fraud alive.
"The other thing we see a lot of is vehicle jump-ins, where you have legitimate accidents that occur and you've got someone who's not actually in the car, or on the police report, going to get treatment."
Anyone who sees disability or workers' compensation fraud can report it anonymously to the state and federal agencies that oversee those programs.
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