In a recent criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut affirmed the judgment of an individual who fraudulently received worker’s compensation benefits following a staged robbery.
This case arose from an incident that occurred on March 3, 2002. The defendant was the general cashier and income auditor of a Hilton Hotel, and appeared to be the victim of a robbery at that location. The perpetrator escaped with over $100,000 in cash and checks. Subsequently, the defendant sought medical treatment for anxiety, insomnia, muscle spasms, and other conditions that seemed to stem from this event. She filed for worker’s compensation, receiving over $5,500 in medical and indemnity benefits. As police investigated the robbery, they began to realize that the defendant was actually a willing participant and, in fact, suffered no injuries. Therefore, she was arrested and charged with fraudulent receipt of worker’s compensation benefits in violation of Connecticut General Statutes § 31-290c(a).
At trial, the State did not offer the defendant’s claim form into the record, which prompted defense counsel to file a motion for a judgment of acquittal (MJOA) at the close of evidence. It argued that unless the jury actually saw the form or statements the defendant made to the worker’s compensation board, it would need to speculate as to whether or not the defendant misrepresented or omitted important material information. The State argued that there was sufficient evidence on the record, upon which a reasonable inference could be made that the defendant did not truthfully describe the circumstances of the robbery and her part in it.
The court denied the motion, as well as the renewed MJOA after the defendant was convicted. It found that the jury did not need to speculate in order to reach a verdict in this case. Following sentencing, the defendant appealed, arguing once more that because the State did not submit the written claim into evidence, the jury was left in the position to guess whether the defendant omitted material facts in her claim.
The use of inferences, based on proven facts and circumstances, to establish knowledge has become commonplace in our justice system. In determining whether an inference made by the jury was proper, a reviewing court will consider “whether the circumstances of the particular case form a basis for a sound inference as to the knowledge of the accused in the transaction under inquiry.” In this case, with respect to the second MJOA, the Court engaged in the following discussion with defense counsel regarding why the jury did not have to speculate to reach their decision:
The Court: I understand that juries are not supposed to speculate, but is it speculation that she withheld the fact that this was a staged robbery?
[Defense Counsel]: Yes. We don’t know the circumstances she claimed the injury occurred in or what the injury was.
The Court: If you write to the [workers’] compensation commission and say I staged a robbery at the hotel, I took $ 114,000 worth of money and checks and credit card slips or whatever they use there, and I got hurt during a robbery that I conspired to create and participate in, and falsify, they’re still going to give you [compensation]?
[Defense Counsel]: I wouldn’t think so.
The Court: I wouldn’t think so, either. Here, I do not think that the jury had to engage in speculation. […]
The Appellate Court agreed that the inference drawn by the jury was reasonable based on the evidence presented. “It was the jury’s right to infer that no workers’ compensation benefits would have been paid to the defendant if she had disclosed that she had participated in the staged robbery.” Therefore, this aspect of the defendant’s claims on appeal failed, and ultimately the judgment was affirmed.
When faced with a charge of larceny, burglary, conspiracy, or attempt, an individual is best served by consulting with an experienced criminal law practitioner. Should you have any questions regarding criminal defense, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.
Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.