Comp Fraud Charges Dismissed in COVID Self-Quarantine Case
Sacramento, CA - A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge has dismissed felony fraud and grand theft charges against a Baldwin Park Unified School District employee accused of misrepresenting her COVID-19 symptoms to collect more than $33,000 in workers' compensation benefits.
Judge Craig Richman cited a lack of evidence in dismissing the case against Stephanie Medrano, who was charged with two felony charges of insurance fraud and one felony charge of grand theft. Deputy District Attorney Melinda Murray supported the judge's decision at Medrano's preliminary hearing on Oct. 8.
She was charged with multiple counts of grand theft and insurance fraud after allegedly making misrepresentations following a COVID-19 diagnosis in an attempt to collect over $33,000 in undeserved workers' compensation insurance benefits.
The California Department of Insurance launched an investigation after receiving a claim of suspected fraud from Medrano's employer, the Baldwin Park Unified School District, on August 21, 2020.
Investigators claimed Medrano made multiple misrepresentations in order to extend a workers' compensation insurance claim submitted to her employer after she was diagnosed with COVID-19.
Medrano was reportedly exposed to COVID-19 while in the workplace and subsequently filed a workers' compensation claim. She told her employer that she self-quarantined from July 6, 2020 to August 3, 2020, and reported she only left her house twice to buy medicine for her mother and sister, who were also diagnosed with COVID-19. Medrano reported her symptoms related to the COVID-19 diagnosis were so severe she was unable to work.
The investigation found that during the time Medrano claimed she was self-quarantining, she was seen shopping at multiple stores for several hours a day and interacting with people from outside her immediate household without face masks.
Further, investigators uncovered that Medrano traveled to Lake Havasu with people who live outside her household just two days after she reported she was still experiencing symptoms to the doctor overseeing her claim.
Judge Richman found no relevance to the fact Medrano went grocery shopping and on a weekend getaway the weekend before she returned to work, said Medrano's attorney, Warren Ellis. He solely blames the school district, which is self-insured, for the misguided prosecution of his client.
The Pasadena Star reports that the prosecutor, declined to comment Tuesday, as did officials at the California Department of Insurance, which disseminated a press release following Medrano's arraignment in February, claiming their investigation and Medrano's subsequent arrest thwarted the potential loss of $33,516 to the school district. Officials at the Baldwin Park Unified School District also did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.