SANTA ANA– On April 28, 2016, a Stanton man was convicted and sentenced for committing insurance fraud by working as a gardener while receiving total disability benefits of more than $29,000. Alberto Gonzalez, 56, pleaded guilty to three misdemeanor counts of making fraudulent statements to obtain compensation.
On June 27, 2012, Gonzalez, who at the time was working as a gardener for MS Landscape, claimed that he was injured on the job when he slipped while standing on top of a fence and trimming a tree. The defendant reported the injury to his employer but continued to work.
On July 5, 2012, Gonzalez complained that his pain was increasing and was sent to a doctor by the employer and a Workers’ Compensation claim was initiated. During the course of the claim, his complaints increased and he convinced the doctor that he could not perform all of his duties as a gardener. The doctor put Gonzalez on modified duties, which the employer could not accommodate, resulting in the insurance company paying the defendant temporary total disability.
On Aug. 20, 2012, Gonzalez was interviewed by an investigator for the insurance company. At that time, the defendant told the investigator that he had given his side business to his brother and stated he had not actively worked his own gardening business in over a year.
While the Workers’ Compensation case was open and while the defendant was receiving temporary total disability payments, the owner of MS Landscape saw Gonzalez doing gardening work at Keno’s Restaurant in Anaheim. The employer reported this to their insurance broker and the insurance company investigated the matter. Surveillance video was obtained showing Gonzalez providing gardening services to another business in Cerritos, Alpha Scientific Corporation. The owner of Alpha Scientific Corporation told the Orange County District Attorney (OCDA) and the California Department of Insurance (CDI), that Gonzalez had provided gardening services for their business since 2007 and continues to currently provide gardening services. The owner of Keno’s Restaurant also verified that Gonzalez had been providing gardening services for their business in the calendar years 2010, 2011, and 2012.
Gonzalez was sentenced to 90 days in the Orange County jail, three years informal probation, and was ordered to pay $150 to the Fraud Assessment Fund. Prior to the plea, Gonzalez paid full restitution by giving the Orange County District Attorney’s Office (OCDA) two cashier’s checks in the total amount of $29,270.29, made payable to the Insurance Company of the West for the loss they incurred.
This case was investigated and brought to the OCDA by CDI. Deputy District Attorney Pamela Leitao of the Insurance Fraud Unit prosecuted this case.
"Taking advantage of insurance that is in place for workers who are truly injured and disabled is a disgrace," said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona. "In the long run, this type of fraudulent activity is a huge drain on California's economy. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people in this state who are committing insurance fraud and thinking they can get away with it."