BUFFALO – New York State Inspector General Lucy Lang today announced the guilty plea and sentencing of Joanne Florek, 55, of Albion, NY, in connection with charges that she defrauded the Workers’ Compensation system of more than $80,000 in benefits to which she was not entitled.
Florek began receiving workers’ compensation benefits in September 2018, after claiming that she was injured while on duty at Orchard Manor Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Medina, NY, where she worked as a nurse. Subsequently, Florek made multiple representations to her insurance carrier, PMA Companies, Inc. (PMA), through statements to physicians and the completion of various questionnaires, that she had not returned to work in any capacity, nor had she collected earnings from any other source since her injury. Under State law, injured employees are expected to provide truthful information regarding their work activity to insurance carriers and the Workers’ Compensation Board during the time they are receiving benefits.
An investigation by the Offices of the Inspector General (OIG), which includes the New York State Workers’ Compensation Fraud Inspector General (WCFIG), determined these representations to be untrue. Instead, the investigation revealed that Florek had been working – as a bookkeeper and as a personal care aide – while at the same time collecting over $80,000 in indemnity benefits from the workers’ compensation carrier that were intended to offset wages lost due to her inability to work.
Following her arrest in June of 2022, Florek was charged with Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, Insurance Fraud in the Second Degree, five counts of Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree, and a violation of Workers’ Compensation Law §114(1) (Penalties for Fraudulent Practices), all felonies. On January 10, 2023, Florek pled guilty to Petit Larceny under Penal Law §155.25, and on Tuesday, May 23rd was sentenced to a conditional discharge, conditioned on her paying restitution in the amount of $40,000.
“Workers’ Compensation fraud imperils a critical safety net for all New Yorkers, one designed to enable injured workers to provide for themselves and their families,” said New York State Inspector General Lucy Lang. “My office will continue to work diligently to identify such fraud and to seek accountability for those who put their own interests above those who truly need and deserve support.”
Inspector General Lang thanked PMA for their cooperation with the investigation, the New York State Police for their assistance with Florek’s arrest, and Orleans County First Assistant District Attorney Susan Howard for prosecuting the case. Lang also thanked members of her OIG staff who worked on the case, including Deputy Inspector General for the Western Region Jeff Hagen, Attorney-in-Charge for Workers’ Compensation Fraud Bryan Richmond, Chief of Investigations for the Western Regional Offices Charlie Tirone, Investigative Counsel Jill Florkowski, Senior Investigator Maren Robinson-Traber, Investigator Lisa Lingenfelter and Investigative Auditor & Data Analyst Kaitlyn Gibbons.