HARRIS COUNTY, Texas - A 53-year-old woman has been charged with insurance fraud after authorities said she devised a scheme in which she tricked Sonic out of more than $10,000 by lying about being served a raw hamburger.
Cassandra Devaull Brooks was indicted by a Harris County grand jury, District Attorney Kim Ogg announced Friday.
What happened in Louisiana?
In July 2018, Brooks, a former Texas Department of Criminal Justice lieutenant, convinced a Lake Charles Sonic that she was served raw beef in a hamburger.
She provided photo evidence and emailed management about her unpaid medical bills and lost wages. She was given a settlement of $10,207.02 from State Farm, according to authorities.
Here's what her email said, according to court documents:
"Would you please give this information to your boss. This is my medical information and the bill. I will also forward a text from my employee about my loss wages. Please inform him that I am asking for $25,000.00 to settle. I spoke with my attorney and this is what he suggested. He inform me if he takes this to court it will be much more. He said by law it's 3 times my medical bills, lost wages (3) days I missed, plus mental and physical stress. He stated, I could have died from this. I am willing to take $20,000.00
"5885.50 Medical bill
"821.52 loss wages 7706.72..total
"I am asking $12,000 for mental and physical stress.
"Remember, I have to pay the hospital bill out of the total and my loss wages should be a loss. Thanks
What happened in Texas?
A month after the Lake Charles incident, Brooks made a similar claim at a Sonic on West Bay Area Boulevard in Webster, officials said.
How did she get caught?
Brooks claimed she missed three days of work and had $5,885 worth of unpaid medical bills.
Authorities determined that the statements about missing work were false and misleading.
She also used the same photos in each claim, according to court documents.
Authorities reviewed Brooks' timesheets from the Department of Criminal Justice, which showed that she did not miss any work during the time she claimed to have been sick, according to court documents.
All but $563.96 of her hospital visit in July was covered by her medical insurance, court documents said.
All but $518.41 of her hospital visit in August was covered by her medical insurance, according to investigators.
What did Brooks say?
When interviewed by authorities, Brooks said she was served raw hamburgers at the Sonic restaurants and as a result, she got food poisoning, according to court documents.
She said she was on vacation in Louisiana and heading back to Texas when the first incident happened, officials said.
During the interview, Brooks initially said she missed several days of work due to eating the raw hamburger but later changed her story and said she forgot in the first claim that she did not miss any days of work in July 2018, according to court records.
Brooks was adamant that she missed three days of work in the second incident, officials said.
When authorities told Brooks that they had access to her time records, Brooks said she was either scheduled off or on vacation on all the days she claimed she missed work due to the hamburgers she purchased from Sonic restaurants, according to court documents.
Brooks denied that she used the same photos of the raw hamburger on both of her claims, according to court records.
Brooks posted bond and is due in court Aug. 22.
Third-degree insurance fraud, which is what Brooks is charged with, carries a penalty of two to 10 years in prison.
The case will be prosecuted by Special Assistant District Attorney Jason Horn, who specializes in insurance crimes.
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