The San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office accepted more than $680,000 from the state yesterday to combat workers’ compensation fraud, the largest of four grants it has received to proactively investigate and prosecute the growing crime.
The California Department of Insurance awarded $32 million in grants to 36 counties, including $680,286 to San Mateo County prosecutors. The grant is awarded annually to the county but the number changes.
The grants are funded through assessments on California employers and the amounts doled out are based on criteria such as the previous year’s performance, applications, arrests and convictions.
“It’s a fairly sizable grant for this county,” said Chief Deputy District Attorney Karen Guidotti.
The money will pay the salaries of one inspector and one prosecutor who focus on people trying to defraud the compensation program with false or exaggerated injuries.
In fiscal year 2012-13, Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones’ office received more than 5,000 referrals for suspected workers’ compensation fraud with losses more than $340 million, according to Jones.
“The impact of fraud is felt across California businesses and is a drain on our economy,” Jones said in an announcement of the grant.
The local office also received a $355,000 disability and health care grant from the insurance department. The grant is brand new and highlights an increased interest in fraud like staged accidents, faked illnesses and other types of chiropractic and medical fraud, Guidotti said.
The remaining two grants are $294,000 for auto insurance fraud and $47, 000 for life and annuity fraud.
Guidotti said the money lets the office track down and prosecute crimes rather than being reactive.
“They allow you to be more proactive,” she said. “These crimes are happening but if you don’t have the resources to root them out they go undetected and we are only prosecuting them when they fall in our lap.”
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