SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – Jose Cortez, 54, of Fontana, has been charged with workers’ compensation fraud and perjury.
In Oct. 2010, Cortez received an occupational injury as a result of his duties as a gardener for L. Barrios & Associates Landscaping. A large tree branch had fallen and landed on Cortez causing injury. He was then transported to an area hospital where he was treated under the workers’ compensation system and released with minor work restrictions.
The following year—between April and Sept. 2011—private insurance investigators working on a tip began conducting video surveillance of Cortez. On six different occasions, he was observed performing his normal duties as a gardener with no obvious signs of pain or discomfort.
In Sept. 2012 Investigators from the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office Workers’ Compensation Insurance Fraud Unit conducted a thorough criminal investigation. During the surveillance they observed and photographed Cortez performing his normal duties as a gardener with no obvious signs of pain or discomfort; however, Cortez was still collecting insurance benefits after reporting that he could not perform his work-related duties.
“Mr. Cortez had previously stated that he was unable to perform the full range of his duties,” said Deputy District Attorney Scott Byrd, who is assigned to the case. “However, our investigation revealed that he had misrepresented the extent of his injuries and received more compensation than he was entitled to.”
Criminal charges were filed Monday against Cortez, resulting in a felony arrest warrant being issued. Cortez was taken into custody outside his residence without incident by District Attorney Investigators. He was transported and booked at the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s West Valley Detention Center.
Cortez was arraigned Tuesday in San Bernardino Superior Court, where he entered a plea of not guilty. If convicted as charged, he faces eight years in County Prison.
“This type of fraud is harmful because it causes premiums that businesses have to pay to go higher,” said Byrd. “It drains business profits, which in turn costs honest workers money in raises or other benefits that they may have been eligible to receive.”
The San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office, Workers’ Compensation Fraud Prosecution Unit, responds to various reports of Insurance Fraud as a result of suspected fraud claims provided by an insurance company, as well as suspected fraud claims that are received through the "We Tip" hotline by private citizens.
If you suspect that someone you know is or has been involved in Workers’ Compensation Insurance Fraud, report your suspicions to the San Bernardino County District Attorney's, Workers’ Compensation Fraud Prosecution Unit, by telephoning 909-387-8309 or E-Mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.