For Immediate Release - March 09, 2011

Westfield Man Pleads Guilty, Canton Woman Indicted, in Connection with Fraudulently Collecting Over $21,000 in Disability Benefits While Working

BOSTON - A Westfield man has pled guilty and a Canton woman has been indicted in connection with fraudulently collecting over $21,000 in disability benefits while working. The separate cases are the result of investigations referred to the Attorney General's Office by the Massachusetts Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB).

"Insurance fraud is a serious crime which can lead to premium increases for employers already struggling to stay in business," said AG Coakley. "We allege the defendants violated the law by working multiple jobs while continuing to collect disability benefits. Our office is committed to prosecuting individuals who manipulate this system for their own personal benefit."

THOMAS SMITH

Thomas Smith, age 51, pled guilty to charges of Workers' Compensation Fraud and Larceny over $250. Following the change of plea, Quincy District Court Judge Diane Moriarty sentenced Smith to two years probation and ordered him to pay $6,864 in restitution.

The Attorney General's Office began an investigation into Smith's activities after a referral was made by the IFB in December 2009. Investigators from the IFB discovered that Smith suffered an injury while working as a carpenter in February 2008 and applied for workers' compensation benefits through his employer's insurer, Arbella Insurance Company (Arbella). Smith's claim for total disability was approved by Arbella and he began receiving monthly workers' compensation checks from February 2008 through December 2008. During part of this time, from July 2008 through November 2008, despite collecting benefits for total disability, Smith was working on multiple work sites throughout Massachusetts as a carpenter based out of Springfield and failed to notify Arbella of his employment status.

Smith was arrested on a default warrant for a previously scheduled arraignment by police on October 28, 2010, and transported to Quincy District Court for arraignment the following day at which time he entered a plea of not guilty and was released on personal recognizance. Smith pled guilty on March 4, 2011, and was ordered to serve probation and pay restitution.

MARIA OLIVEIRA-SOARES

Maria Oliveira-Soares, age 52, was indicted on charges of Workers' Compensation Fraud (2 counts) and Perjury.

The Attorney General's Office began an investigation into Oliveira-Soares' activities after a referral was made by the IFB in November 2009. According to authorities Oliveira-Soares filed a claim for workers' compensation benefits in March 2004, for an injury sustained while working for a cleaning company and began receiving partial incapacity benefits in September of that year. Following her claim, Oliveira-Soares made multiple reports of debilitating pain from her injuries and testified to the Department of Industrial Accidents (DIA) in August 2005, that she had not returned to work since the incident. Authorities allege that Oliveira-Soares worked for five separate employers while collecting benefits since filing her claim in March 2004. Authorities further allege that while collecting benefits, Oliveira-Soares filed a second claim for workers' compensation benefits for injuries sustained while working as a nurse's assistant in October 2005. During the relevant time period, Oliveira-Soares collected over $15,000 in benefits.

A Suffolk County Grand Jury returned indictments against Oliveira-Soares on March 7, 2011. Oliveira Soares is scheduled to be arraigned on March 30, 2011 in Suffolk Superior Court.

AG Coakley's Insurance and Unemployment Fraud Division works to protect consumers and the integrity of the insurance system by investigating and prosecuting those who commit fraud against all types of insurers, including the Commonwealth's unemployment insurance and workers' compensation system. The prosecution of insurance fraud helps prevent the increase in premiums and taxes that are the result of fraudulent insurance claims. In 2010 the Insurance and Unemployment Fraud Division obtained over $800,000 in restitution orders in 30 matters.

The prosecutors assigned to these cases are Assistant Attorneys General Michael J. Walsh and Jennifer Adreani of AG Coakley's Insurance and Unemployment Fraud Division with assistance from investigators from the Attorney General's Office. Investigators from the IFB also assisted in this case.

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