State Wins Workers’ Comp Fraud Case
HELENA – A Helena jury convicted a Ronan man Wednesday of two felony counts of theft of worker’s compensation benefits provided by the Montana State Fund.
Perry Joseph Penfield was employed at his parents’ business, Polson Paint and Glass, in April 2008 when he fell into a window well and injured his right knee, according to an affidavit filed by the Attorney General’s Office. Penfield began receiving $777.86 in bi-weekly temporary total disability benefits from Montana State Fund beginning one week later. Investigators from the Montana Department of Justice and Montana State Fund discovered that Penfield had established his own paint and siding company and was earning money while continuing to receive wage loss benefits. The Attorney General’s Office filed suit in Montana’s First Judicial District Court in Helena in June 2011. The trial lasted two days and the 12-person jury returned a verdict after about an hour of deliberations, finding him guilty of two counts of theft in an amount exceeding $1,000.
Judge Kathy Seeley, presiding over the trial, set sentencing for April 11, 2013. Penfield faces a possible maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and/or a $50,000 fine on each count of theft. The State alleges that Penfield stole more than $14,000 in benefits that he was not entitled to receive and will be asking the Court at the sentencing hearing to order Penfield to pay restitution to the Montana State Fund.
Montana Attorney General Tim Fox said, “Montana’s business owners pay their insurance premiums expecting that every dollar will be used to help their injured employees get back on their feet. We’ll continue to keep a vigilant eye out for fraud in order to ensure that funds are available to help those who truly need it.”