Woman goes to prison for workers’ comp fraud

A Grand Junction woman who fraudulently collected more than $25,000 in workers’ compensation payouts was sentenced Monday to two years in prison.

Michelle McKee, 42, faced a maximum three years in prison under an agreement with the Colorado Attorney General’s Office after pleading guilty in May to a felony count of making a false statement to gain a benefit.

McKee, who has remained jailed since her arrest in January on allegations including felony theft and forgery, maintained Monday she merely failed to file workers’ compensation paperwork in a timely manner, but rejected suggestions she intentionally defrauded Pinnacol Assurance.

“What I did was wrong,” McKee said, pleading for a probation sentence.

A former housekeeper at a local hotel, McKee told at least one person she fell while trying on a pair of shoes April 17, 2009, when on the job, and hurt her ankle in the process, according to an arrest affidavit. A doctor assessed the injury as a minor sprain.

The injury wasn’t reported until May 18 and she had surgery on her ankle June 15 when further tests showed more damage to the ankle, the affidavit said. That summer, she began receiving temporary partial disability and wage benefits.

According to the affidavit, investigators with the insurer started scrutinizing McKee’s claims after being tipped she had bragged about fooling the system, while telling others the injury wasn’t work related.

David Cosson, senior assistant Colorado Attorney General, said investigators found that McKee had offered five separate dates when she claimed she had hurt herself.

Cosson said four witnesses were prepared to testify that McKee told them she had hurt her ankle stepping off a curb, while McKee’s affidavit alleges one of her co-workers said it had happened one night, off the job, when she “had got really drunk and fell on a curb.”

Others claimed McKee had confided to them about another fraudulent workers’ compensation claim in Utah worth $11 million, Cosson told the judge.

“These are two people, unrelated, who don’t know each other, saying the same thing,” the prosecutor told the judge. “(McKee) had said this was a financial settlement, but she couldn’t receive it until she finished a sentence in Mesa County.”

Cosson on Monday suggested a financial motive, saying McKee’s health insurance through her employer at the time would cover only up to $1,500 for her ankle surgery.

McKee on Monday was ordered to pay $25,500 in restitution to Pinnacol Assurance, whose policy holders were described as the real victims in the case.

“This is going to have an impact throughout the entire system,” Cosson told the judge.


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