ASHEVILLE, N.C. – A former employee of the United States Postal Service was sentenced yesterday to serve seven months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release for filing fraudulent documents in order to receive worker’s compensation benefits and related charges, announced Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.
U.S. Attorney Tompkins is joined in making today’s announcement by Paul Bowman, Area Special Agent in Charge of the United States Postal Services, Office of the Inspector General (USPS-OIG). U.S. District Judge Martin Reidinger also ordered Robin Knight Smith, 46, of Waynesville, N.C., to complete 100 hours of community service and to pay approximately $46,000 in restitution.
In January 2011, following a four-day trial a jury found Smith guilty of one count of aiding and abetting the submission of a false FMLA request, one count of making a false statement to the government, and four counts of submitting a false writing in connection with an application or receipt of worker’s compensation benefits. According to evidence presented at trial, Smith had allegedly suffered an on-the-job accident while working at a mail processing facility in Asheville. She then sought worker’s compensation and other employment benefits as a result of this incident and, through written documents and oral statements, she claimed that her injuries prevented her from returning to her regular job or an even less strenuous work assignment.
Trial evidence indicated that the USPS-OIG fraud hotline received an anonymous tip claiming that Smith was not truthful about her physical condition and her inability to return to work. Trial testimony revealed that Special Agents with USPS-OIG conducted surveillance of Smith for two months. Videotaped footage shows Smith engaging in a wide range of social activities that exceeded her stated physical limitations. Smith had claimed that she was not able to stand for more than ten minutes at a time, that she could not sit for long periods of time, that she could not lift more than five pounds, and that she needed a wheelchair or walker during long walking trips. Contrary to her statements, the investigation revealed that Smith often traveled to Harrah’s Casino in Cherokee and sat on gambling stools for long periods of time. Evidence presented at trial also showed Smith often used a walker or stroller before or during an appointment with a doctor, but she usually walked without such devices while shopping or engaging in social activities.
U.S. Attorney Tompkins thanked the federal agents and prosecutors for their dedication to this investigation, which began in June 2009. “The result of this important work is that the government will be saved over a million dollars in payments to a person who tried to defraud the disability system,” said the Western District’s top law enforcement official. “The serious pursuit by the government of this criminal activity serves two other important purposes: It honors the efforts of every honest and hard working government employee, and serves as a warning to anyone who might believe that the government is not carefully watching, pursuing and punishing such frauds.”
According to ASAC Bowman, “Smith reflects just a very small percentage of employees who failed to uphold the trust and integrity placed in them. The general public should be reminded that the majority of postal employees remain committed to exhibiting the highest moral character and trust that our customers expect and deserve.” In announcing the defendant’s sentence, Judge Reidinger stated that Robin Knight Smith had engaged in a “pattern of conduct to defraud the government.” Judge Reidinger also said that he imposed a term of imprisonment “to afford adequate deterrence to criminal conduct,” and to serve as a warning to other workers seeking a “free ride” at the expense of the American taxpayers.
During the same trial, Smith’s husband and co-defendant, Charles Phillip Smith, 47, of Waynesville, was convicted on one count of aiding and abetting the submission of a false FMLA request and on two counts of making a false statement to the government. He was sentenced to three years of probation and ordered to pay a $200 assessment fine. Upon designation of a federal facility, Smith, who has been released on bond, will be transferred into custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Federal sentences are served without the possibility of parole.
The investigation of the case was handled by USPS-OIG. The prosecution for the government was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kenneth M. Smith and Jennifer L. Dillon of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.