United States Attorney Jenny A. Durkan
Western District of Washington
FORMER POSTAL WORKER SENTENCED FOR FRAUDULENTLY CLAIMING INJURED WORKER BENEFITS
Tukwila Man Claimed he was ‘Too Injured to Work’ While Operating Convenience Store
HARPREET SINGH MINHAS, 31, formerly of Tukwila, Washington, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to one year of probation, 50 hours of community service and $16,546 in restitution for making a false statement to obtain federal employees’ compensation. MINHAS is a former letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service who claimed he was injured when he tripped and fell in September 2008. In January 2010, it was determined that MINHAS was working at a store in Oregon, despite his claims that he was too injured for any employment. At sentencing U.S. District Judge Richard A. Jones told him “this wasn’t a single or isolated act.... it was multiple false statements and representations.”
According to records filed in the case, on September 4, 2008, MINHAS filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits, claiming that he had tripped and injured his back and leg. Almost one year later, on August 1, 2009, an independent medical examiner determined that MINHAS could return to light duty. However, MINHAS refused to do so, and hung up on his supervisor when the supervisor called to discuss the light duty assignment. Although MINHAS claimed that he could not drive, he had been seen driving approximately three weeks earlier. In January 2010, MINHAS submitted additional paperwork seeking to continue his benefits. Under the paperwork, MINHAS verified that he had not received any payments for work, and agreed to notify the Postal Service if he could return to work.
On January 18, 2010, MINHAS had an appointment with a doctor for another independent medical examination. He walked with an exaggerated limp, and stated on forms that he would not be working until after he had surgery. After MINHAS limped to his car, he drove some 187 miles, stopping only once at a rest area. At the rest area he had no apparent difficulty walking. MINHAS ended his trip at a convenience store in Newberg, Oregon, where he worked the night shift at the store. He was observed working at the store for the next twelve days performing a variety of manual labor tasks.
“At a time when he claimed that he was too injured to perform even light work for the Postal Service, he was working steady shifts, including night shifts, performing manual labor, including restocking merchandise, repeatedly reaching overhead while looking up and arching his back, wiping down counters, sweeping floors, shaking out carpets, and lifting and carrying items of various weights,” prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memo.
The investigation revealed that MINHAS had moved to Oregon in the summer of 2009, to evaluate buying the store. The store owner had paid MINHAS’s rent and other expenses as he considered the purchase. Between August and December 2009, MINHAS did some work tasks at the store, and he began working full time at the store in December 2009. While MINHAS had collected more than $68,945 in workers’ compensation benefits, only $16,546 had been paid from the date he officially began working full time at the store. MINHAS paid the full $16,546 restitution amount to the government in court today.
The case was investigated by the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General and the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Thomas Woods.