Rogers Couple Charged with Insurance Fraud, Attempted Theft by Swindle
A Rogers couple was charged with insurance fraud and attempted theft by swindle in a scheme that came to light after one of their employees almost drowned, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman and Minnesota Department of Commerce Commissioner Steve Kelley announced Friday.
Jerry Gould, 65, and Lorraine Gould, 62, were charged by summons and their first court appearance is scheduled for Jan. 3. Jerry Gould is the owner of Gould’s Tree Service in Rogers and Lorraine Gould is listed on various documents as either vice president or office clerk and has authority to sign documents.
“This case is exhibit A on how cheating the government hurts real people,” Freeman said. “This worker suffered terribly from an accident on the job and originally received only half of what he should have because his employer lied on the forms to a state-backed insurance program. The Commerce Fraud Bureau agents did a great job getting to the bottom of this and we will prosecute the case vigorously.”
“Workers’ compensation laws in Minnesota are in place to ensure every worker injured on the job is protected,” Commissioner Kelley said. “In this case, the Goulds attempted to scam the system to line their own pockets. The Commerce Fraud Bureau works diligently to ensure all Minnesotans are protected from these fraud schemes.”
According to the criminal complaint, on the morning of March 21, 2018, Jerry Gould and an employee were trimming trees at a home in Rogers. Gould was using a remote control to maneuver a lift near an icy incline in the backyard when he lost control of the lift and it slid down the hill taking the two men with it. The lift overturned in a partially frozen pond, trapping the two men underneath it.
Gould was able to free himself, but the other man could not. Emergency crews quickly arrived and the Rogers Police Chief saw that the water was up to the man’s nostrils. He held the man’s head out of the water, with help from a firefighter, for 30 minutes. The man gave permission to amputate his right arm, which was trapped under the lift, if necessary, the complaint states.
Eventually, the man was extracted intact but suffered a hyperextended neck, and required multiple surgeries for his pelvis, arm and shoulder and he also suffered anxiety and post-traumatic stress, according to the complaint. The employee provided police with information about Gould’s employment and record-keeping practices which raised the possibility of workers’ compensation insurance fraud.
Agents from the Minnesota Commerce Fraud Bureau discovered that the Goulds were intentionally underreporting their payroll costs to the company that provided workers’ compensation insurance to the tree-trimming company through the State of Minnesota’s Assigned Risk Plan. The Goulds did that by reporting only part of their employees’ salary and paying part of it in cash, which was not recorded, the complaint states. The result was the Goulds were charged less than they should have been for workers compensation insurance.
The day after the accident, Lorraine Gould sent the insurance company a “First Report of Injury” form about the accident and intentionally lied about the injured man’s wages, hours worked and status, claiming he was part time when he actually was a full time employee, according to the complaint. Worse, the insurance company used that information to calculate the amount the injured man was to be paid by workers compensation and it was half of what he should have received. That cost him $4,286 over the four months following the accident.
Jerry Gould Criminal Complaint (PDF)
Lorraine Gould Criminal Complaint (PDF)