Accidents at work are commonplace. I’ll honestly never forget the pain I was put through after a co-worker pulled a cage trolley straight over my foot during a summer working at a supermarket. A broken foot tends to stick in the memory, you see.
However, there are honest-to-God work mishaps and there are barefaced lies which perfectly illustrate the favourite childhood saying “liar liar, pants on fire”. A bizarre incident in Fort Lauderdale, Florida did exactly this when a woman attempted to stage a fake accident in order to claim a big payout from her employer.
The only problem? While committing fraud, it’s lesson number one that you should always cover any suspicious or incriminating tracks you’ve left behind. I’m betting Florida resident Sheyla Veronica White wished someone had told her this earlier when she got caught on camera committing the most ridiculous compensation fraud ever.
White was sitting at her desk in 2015 when a broken fire sprinkler nozzle suddenly fell from the ceiling onto her desk, completely missing her. The video shows her pausing for a second and looking around the room to check if any one is watching. A few moments after, she proceeds to pick up the piece of metal, examine it for a second and slam herself in the head with it.
Straight after the incident, White informed her employers, Cinque Terre Energy Partners, of what had happened and they quickly filed a compensation claim for the alleged injury. Soon after however, they grew suspicious of her story and contacted Florida’s Division of Investigative and Forensic Services, imploring them to investigate.
It was only then that investigators got hold of the CCTV video from the day, immediately finding that White had outrageously lied about the entire thing. She was arrested in August 2016 and convicted of workers’ compensation fraud. So instead of getting the massive compensation payout she had hoped for, White was sentenced to 18 months of probation for her dishonesty, luckily managing to avoid the maximum sentence of five years in prison.
This incident was not the former teacher’s first brush with the law. She had previously been under house arrest for six months for stealing personal identification information from her students in 2010.
There is concern that incidents like this may cause copycat attempts at fraudulent activity. In fact, a 2015 poll from Employers Holdings shows that more than one in ten American small-business owners are worried that their employees would fake an injury or illness to collect benefits.
In the aftermath of the video, it’s worth reminding everyone that investigators advise employees who suspect a coworker is committing compensation fraud to call the special investigations unit or fraud unit within their company’s claim department.
While not every company has a “claim department”, I think it’s safe to say none of us won’t be attempting anything quite like this any time soon. After all, you never know who’s filming you.