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|Case Review: Man Guilty in Workers Comp Case|
|Written By: Chris Dettro
Publication: The State Journal Register, Springfield, Illinois
In one of the first convictions of its type in the state over the past five years, a Springfield man Friday pleaded guilty to attempting to defraud the Illinois Environmental Services Worker’s Compensation Trust Fund.
Michael Goacher, 32, of the 1900 block of North 11th Street entered a negotiated plea of guilty to one count of insurance fraud and was sentenced by Sangamon County Circuit Judge Leo Zappa to two years’ probation and ordered to perform 100 hours of public service work.Insurance fraud is a Class 2 felony with possible penalties of up to seven years in prison and fines of as much as $10,000.
State’s Attorney Patrick Kelley, who prosecuted the case, said it was the first time anyone has been convicted of insurance fraud while pursuing a workers compensation claim in Sangamon County.
Goacher was videotaped by an insurance investigator doing heavy work while he claimed to be permanently disabled.
Springfield attorney Stephen Kelly, who represented Curry Ice & Coal Inc., Goacher’s employer, said such fraud cases are difficult to prove, “but it was one we felt we had to pursue.”
“The great thing is, he was convicted of fraud without the insurance having had to pay out the money,” said Kelly, who praised the involvement of the state’s attorney as well as efforts by Curry Ice & Coal.
“This was a combined effort by a lot of people.” Kelly said.
Goacher was a truck driver for Curry Ice & Coal when he was involved in an accident on Nov 5, 1995.
Goacher filed a workers compensation claim, and through March 1996 was paid $8,476. Those payments were not contested, Kelly said in stating the facts of the case.
Goacher then claimed that he was permanently disabled and unable to work anywhere.
Kelley said Goacher was examined three different times by doctors, who could find no reason for the lower back pain he claimed.
On June 7, 1996, Goacher was examined by Dr. David Fletcher, an occupational medicine specialist from Decatur. During the visit, Kelley said, Goacher claimed he was in so much pain that he could not bend over to remove his shoes. On the same day, however, video surveillance hired by insurance administrator E.C. Fackter of Chicago showed Goacher with his own high-pressure-water cleaning business, bending and pulling a cord to start a gas generator. A week later, more video surveillance showed Goacher lifting an air-conditioning unit to put in a window.
Goacher’s claim against the workers compensation fund for more than $81,000 was ultimately denied by an arbitrator. Goacher was represented in the criminal proceedings by Sangamon County public defender Brian Otwell.