BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — On Wednesday, the Kern County District Attorney's Office announced that seven people were indicted in connection to an insurance fraud conspiracy at a Bakersfield vocational school. The case involved the theft of over $100,000 in benefits meant to help injured workers.
The seven people were owners and employees of Instituto Hispano Americano (“IHA”), located on Chester Avenue, as well as employees of two local law offices. Those charged were identified as: Anna Ayala-Reyes, Sylvia Carrillo, Evelyn Cruz, Martin Cruz, Nelfido Rolando Cruz, Cynthia Ozaeta, Sandra Paredez.
The DA's office said those involved sending false or misleading Supplemental Job Displacement Benefit Vouchers to insurance companies, claiming that injured workers were eligible to obtain up to $6,000. The vouchers are meant to "meant to make the injured worker more competitive in the job market because they are otherwise unable to return to their former employer due to being on total or temporary disability."
The employees of the law firm would send injured workers to the school to file the claims in exchange for $600 per worker.
“Like many types of programs that benefit the public at large, worker’s compensation laws can only help the people who need it most if they are protected from fraud and other schemes designed to misappropriate funds," said District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer. "When evidence of abuse of the workers compensation system is identified, it will be investigated and prosecuted to hold wrongdoers accountable and ensure that benefits remain available for those genuinely qualified to receive them.”
Those involved face 85 counts including, conspiracy to commit insurance fraud, concealing facts affecting entitlement to insurance benefits, and offering or receiving money in exchange for referrals.