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March 18, 11

NEWS / Burlington County Woman Pleads Guilty to Disability Insurance Fraud


TRENTON - Attorney General Paula Dow and Criminal Justice Director Stephen J. Taylor announced that a Burlington County woman has pleaded guilty to stealing more than $9,000 in workers’ compensation disability insurance benefits.

According to Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Riza Dagli, Tomica S. Cooper, 40, of Willingboro, pleaded guilty yesterday (March 17) to second-degree insurance fraud before Superior Court Judge James W. Palmer, Jr. in Burlington County. The charge was contained in a Burlington County grand jury indictment returned on May 22, 2008.

Judge Palmer scheduled sentencing for April 28. Under the plea agreement, the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor will recommend that Cooper be sentenced to three years in state prison, but the prison sentence will be suspended provided she successfully completes five years of special probation under a Drug Court program where she will be under intense supervision. In addition, Cooper will be required to pay full restitution in the amount of $9,442.66.

At the guilty plea hearing, Cooper admitted that between July 13, 2003 and Aug. 4, 2004, she filed two workers’ compensation disability claims and repeatedly lied to The Hartford Insurance Company in order to collect $9,442.66 in benefits to which she was not entitled. In 2003, Cooper had been employed by Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. The first claim was filed in June 2003. Although she returned to work in July 2003, Cooper failed to notify the insurance company and continued to collect benefits until December 2003. Wal-Mart terminated Cooper’s employment on Jan. 12, 2004. Approximately two weeks after being terminated, Cooper filed the second claim, lying about her employment status and about her alleged medical condition.

Cooper admitted that in the seven months following her submission of the fraudulent claim, she placed telephone calls to the insurance company impersonating an employee from her physician’s office and lying about medical matters. Cooper also admitted that she forged her doctor’s signature on a physician’s statement and submitted that false document to the insurance company in support of the fraudulent claim.

Detective Anne Hayes and Civil Investigator Wilbert Sowney were assigned to the investigation. Deputy Attorney General Geraldine D. Zidow represented the state at the guilty plea hearing. Acting Insurance Fraud Prosecutor Dagli thanked The Hartford Insurance Company for its assistance in the investigation.

http://www.nj.gov/oag/newsreleases11/pr20110318a.html

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