An Inyokern, Calif. couple who reportedly bilked the workers’ compensation system out of more than $76,000 in a disability scheme was sentenced to prison Nov. 16 on the charges and ordered to pay $102,706 in restitution and fines, according to authorities.
After an investigation by the California Department of Insurance and the Kern County District Attorney’s office, Robert Fred Herbert and Debra Lynn Herbert pled no contest to the charges on Aug. 10. Robert Herbert was sentenced to four years in prison and ordered to pay $48,208 in restitution, plus $4,200 in fines. His wife was sentenced to 60 days county jail and ordered to pay $48,208 in restitution and $2,100 in fines. She was also placed on three years probation.
The Herberts began the scam in 2000 at Robert’s former employer, Desert Garage Door in Ridgecrest. On April 5 of that year, he claimed an injury and filed a workers’ comp claim with Golden Eagle Insurance. Several weeks later, he returned to full work status. However, in September 2000, the owner of the firm learned that Herbert was receiving paid total temporary disability while still working and receiving his regular paycheck.
Herbert argued with the employer and subsequently left employment there. He hired an attorney to help him continue his workers’ comp claim and was referred to a new doctor who placed him on total temporary disability once again.
Shortly after Herbert left his job at Desert Garage Door, Golden Eagle Insurance Company began receiving tips that he was working at Valley Fence Company in Ridgecrest, where his wife was the office manager and bookkeeper. She reportedly helped execute a scheme in which Herbert was paid through his wife’s paycheck in order to hide the income.
In November 2002, the California Department of Insurance and Kern County District Attorney’s Office served search warrants at the Herbert residence, Valley Fence Company, and numerous other Ridgecrest businesses and banks. They found that Robert Herbert had indeed been employed since October 2000, and was being paid through his wife’s wages while still receiving workers’ comp disability benefits.
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