A former federal employee with the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has pled guilty to a workers’ compensation fraud scheme to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars according to an announcement from the Justice Department.
Elizabeth Torres, 56, of Brooklyn, New York is a former federal employee who worked as a corrections officer at BOP until about 2006. Over the course of several years, she sought and received compensation under the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA) by stating that she had a debilitating knee injury and, therefore, essentially could not work despite being employed full-time for several years during the scheme. She was receiving payments as a result of making false representations about her situation of more than $4,000 per month over the course of several years.
FECA provides benefits to civilian federal employees who sustain injuries as a result of their employment and are administered by the Labor Department’s Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP). In order to receive FECA benefits, a claimant must prove that she is disabled by furnishing medical documentation and other evidence with her claim.
Torres submitted annual forms to OWCP for several years seeking benefits. However, according to the announcement from the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York within the Justice Department, she lied in order to get the OWCP benefits by claiming that she was significantly disabled, that a dependent was living with her for various years, that she was not receiving any pay for various years, and that she was not working or performing volunteer work.
Despite her claims, she was employed full-time from approximately 2015 to 2019 as the program director at a drug and alcohol addiction treatment center in New York City. She also was paid indirectly through an entity and her salary payments were disguised as “rent” in order to conceal her work at the clinic.
Additionally, Torres claimed that she had a debilitating knee injury and was essentially incapable of performing any work because she experienced pain and swelling within 30 minutes of sitting or standing. However, on one occasion in 2019, Torres was caught on video dancing with ease in high-heeled boots on the sidewalk outside of the clinic where she worked.
Torres pled guilty to one count of federal workers’ compensation fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said, “The federal workers’ compensation program protects qualifying federal employees who suffer legitimate work injuries. But some individuals take advantage of this disability benefit program. As she admitted today, Elizabeth Torres was one such individual. Torres exploited the program for years by lying, in various respects, in order to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars in disability benefits. For her crime, Torres now faces potential prison time.”