In recent years, social media posts by disability claimants have proved a valuable source of information for investigators cracking down on fraud and a post by the ex-wife of mail carrier provided key evidence in one of the most read stories of the past year.
The United States Postal Service worker falsely claimed more than a decade of total disability related to a back injury he suffered in 1989, according a federal appeals court conviction on Oct. 1.
The story on Rodolfo Vázquez-Soto’s conviction was the second most read workers compensation story on Business Insurance’s website over the past year.
Mr. Vázquez-Soto had a documented history of back problems when he filed a workers compensation claim in 1989 and upon returning to work after a 45-day period of paid leave, he was granted limited work duty and accommodations for his back pain. Yet evidence from surveillance and social media posts proved he was able to perform tasks he had claimed he couldn’t.
In 2012, the USPS began investigating Mr. Vázquez-Soto’s lifestyle after it saw that he had collected $448,000 in cash benefits but only $8,000 in medical benefits. Investigators gathered evidence on social media that showed him participating in the activities of a motorcycling group and surveillance footage performing a variety of activities — lifting items, driving, riding a motorcycle — that he had claimed he could not do.
After a jury trial, a judge sentenced him to five years’ probation and ordered him to pay $19,341 in restitution.
In an unsuccessful appeal, he argued that the court had abused its discretion in admitting into evidence photographs taken from a Facebook page under the name of his ex-wife, in that it did not authenticate the photographs, among other claims.
In general, social media posts have become a treasure trove for insurance fraud investigators.