Aspen man and his girlfriend guilty of fraud
March 7, 2002
An Aspen man and his former girlfriend were convicted this week of workers’ compensation fraud.
Robert J. Witek and Jennifer Weber were found guilty of felonies after a whistle-blower informed the state of their attempt to turn a party accident into a workers’ compensation payoff. The couple now face fines and possible prison sentences.
The story, as told by a press release from the state attorney general’s office, begins with a workers’ compensation claim filed by Robert Witek of RJW Builders of Aspen in May 1999. Witek was seeking benefits for injuries sustained by Weber in a purported workplace accident.
Witek’s claim said Weber was an employee of his business who was injured while delivering building blueprints when she fell off a “pickup scooter.”
The claim was granted and Weber received approximately $15,000 in temporary total-disability benefits from Pinnacol Assurance (the state’s workers’ compensation authority). In addition, Pinnacol paid over $30,000 to medical providers for treatment of Weber’s injuries.
At the time the claim was filed, however, Weber was Witek’s girlfriend, not his employee.
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The couple’s fraud began to unravel later in 1999, when a secretary (now a former employee) for Witek informed the Colorado Division of Insurance that Weber’s accident was not a business accident.
The division of insurance turned the matter over to the attorney general’s office for further investigation and possible legal action.
The investigation revealed that the accident occurred during a social gathering at Witek’s home in Aspen. Weber and a friend were riding a moped and crashed. Weber injured her elbow.
The whistle-blower also informed investigators that Weber was not an employee of Witek’s business at the time of the accident.
Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar’s office filed criminal charges in Arapahoe County District Court in May 2000, but the case did not make its way to trial until last month. The charges were filed in Arapahoe County because that is where the headquarters of Pinnacol Assurance is located.
Witek and Weber were each charged with one count of class-three felony theft and one count of submitting a false statement to obtain workers’ compensation benefits, a class-five felony.
Following a week-long trial, a jury convicted Witek of theft of over $15,000 and of making a false statement in order to obtain workers’ compensation benefits late Monday, according to the press release. The jury convicted Weber of making a false statement in order to obtain workers’ compensation benefits.
Sentencing is scheduled for May 14. The state will be seeking a restitution order against both defendants jointly for recovery of over $45,000 paid in benefits.
Witek’s class-three felony conviction for theft comes with the possibility of a four- to 12-year prison sentence. The class-five felony conviction for making false statements carries a possible prison sentence of between one and three years.
“Workers’ compensation fraud rips off legitimate businesses and other Colorado taxpayers,” Salazar said. “Individuals who scam the system should know that stiff criminal penalties can apply.”