Daly City Councilwoman and former mayor Maggie Gomez pleaded no contest to charges of workers’ compensation fraud, as reported by the Associated Press and several California news outlets. She is scheduled to be sentenced in San Mateo Superior Court on May 3, 2011. What has not been reported in the media, however, are the events at the WCAB that may have directly led to this conviction.
As reported, Gomez filed a workers’ compensation claim in 2005 saying she was injured at her job as a patient relations manager at Seton Medical Center in Daly City. She testified in a deposition taken by the author of this blog, that she was disabled from certain lifting, standing, walking and other activities, due to her alleged injury. However, sub rosa investigation revealed these statements to be false.
Gomez repeated this testimony at a trial before a workers’ compensation judge in San Francisco. When the employer offered the sub rosa investigator’s testimony and film into evidence, the judge refused to hear it and later awarded Gomez benefits, based in part on her unimpeached testimony. A WCAB panel upheld that decision on Reconsideration.
Undeterred, the matter was referred to the criminal authorities who relied on the exact same sub rosa evidence to prosecute and convict Gomez. Apparently, the fact that the applicant had used the false testimony to successfully secure an award from the WCAB was crucial to the District Attorney’s decision to prosecute.
Had the workers’ comp judge weighed all the evidence including the investigation films and not awarded benefits, then the criminal case may not have been prosecuted. In other words, the false statements would then have only constituted the lesser crime of attempted fraud. It appears that the fraud was only brought to fruition and the criminal case ensued, all as a result of the WCAB’s erroneous award of benefits.
Incidentally, it is expected that Gomez will be ordered to pay back much of those comp benefits as part of her criminal sentencing.