GREAT FALLS – The United States Attorney’s Office announced a federal court convicted Deborah Joy Durand of False Statements to Obtain Federal Employees’ Compensation Benefits, Wire Fraud, False Claims Relating to Workers’ Compensation Benefits, and Theft of Government Property. U.S. District Judge Brian Morris presided over the 3-day trial.
At trial, the government presented evidence that Durand had a back injury from her job at the Post Office. She had back surgery and was unable to work for a period of time. Instead of returning to work when capable, Durand lied to her doctors, embellished her symptoms, and ultimately obtained total disability. Agents from the Post Office conducted surveillance and saw that Durand was feeding horses, lifting hay bales, jogging in the mornings, clearing land, running chainsaws, removing stumps from fallen trees, building fences, mowing the lawn every week, riding horses twice a week, and many other physically challenging activities.
All total, Durand received over $693,403.63 based on her claims for workers’ compensation. Of that amount, she received $268, 892.18 for wages, despite having the ability to work at least a desk job at the Post Office.
In order to further prove the case, undercover federal agents called Durand and told her she won a free kayaking trip. During the ruse kayaking trip, Durand paddled approximately 30 miles in open ocean water over a three-day period. During the trip, Durand hiked, lifted heavy objects, and karate-kicked and judo-chopped an object held by an undercover federal agent. All of these activities were captured on video.
Two months after the kayaking trip, agents conducted a follow-up appointment with Durand to identify if she could work for the Post Office. Durand had no idea that the appointment was an undercover operation. During the interview, Durand claimed she could not sit or stand for long, and she was “totally sedentary.” She even claimed she was unable to work in any capacity.
This case was investigated by the United States Postal Service Office of Inspector General. Executive Special Agent in Charge Joanne Yarbrough said, “The majority of Postal Service employees are dedicated, hardworking, and trustworthy professionals who would never consider engaging in criminal conduct. However, when attempts to defraud the Federal Workers’ Compensation Program arise, those acts will not be tolerated, and they will be vigorously investigated by the USPS Office of Inspector General. The Workers’ Compensation Program is designed to ensure that individuals injured during the performance of their duties receive appropriate medical care and compensation. The conviction in this case is a result of the commitment between the United States Attorney’s Office, and the USPS Office of Inspector General, to ensure the integrity of the Federal Workers’ Compensation Program, and to hold those accountable for defrauding the program.”
Sentencing is set for November 30, 2017, at 1:30 p.m., at the Missouri River Courthouse, in Great Falls, Montana.