“Good old-fashioned” detective work solves workers’ comp fraud case

“Good old-fashioned” detective work solves workers’ comp fraud case

When it comes to resolving workers’ comp fraud cases, sometimes all it takes is detective work. That’s what Maryann Lazernik of State Fund did, according to reports at Insurance Journal.

Lazernik, equipped with 25 years of experience in workers’ comp insurance, developed her detective skills when she began working with claims at major accounts several years back.

The “fraud sleuth” knew something was up when she began investigating the case of Jerry Buffington, 69, and Cynthia Russell, 47, owners of Bakersfield-based business Safehome, Inc.

Lazernik, in partnership with State Fund, found that Safehome, Inc. was underreporting their employee payroll to avoid having to pay workers’ compensation premiums. After an extensive audit, it was discovered that Safehome, Inc. failed to pay the correct amount, resulting in just over $477,000 worth of underpaid premiums. And the thorough investigation also found that the company – ordinarily an alarm system installer — was moonlighting as a roofing company as well.

Lazernik is trained to pick up on irregularities, if even small nuances that just don’t seem right. Careful not to release too many details, Lazernik simply said it was detective work – not technology – that solved this case.

According to the Insurance Journal, “workers’ compensation fraud costs businesses $7.2 billion annually, roughly a fifth of all workers’ compensation payments.” So when it comes to finding fraud, employees like Lazernik are motivated to help the save the state money.

She is now training others at State Fund on how to catch workers’ comp fraud perpetrators.

“If it’s something that raises your interest, or if you think you see something wrong, that’s the level of awareness we’re trying to create in our staff,” she added. “If it doesn’t look right or seems odd, that’s what we want someone to look at and notice.”

Lazernik noted that fraudulent business owners know how to divert red flags cleverly.

“That’s the one thing fraudsters are really good at, at learning how not to get caught,” she said.