News: 2010 Press Release
For Release: June 18, 2010
Media Calls Only: 916-492-3566
Commissioner Poizner Announces Woodland Man Arrested for Allegedly Faking Injuries to Receive More Than $400,000 in Workers' Comp Benefits
Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner announced today that Steven Harder, 43, of Woodland surrendered to authorities on June 10 for allegedly staging and blaming a workplace accident for injuries resulting from a non work-related car accident.
"If you lie about your injuries in order to get workers' comp benefits, you will get caught, and you will face serious consequences," said Commissioner Poizner.
Harder surrendered at the Yolo County Jail in connection with allegations of workers' compensation fraud. Harder was charged with one felony count of knowingly making a false or fraudulent material statement or material misrepresentation for the purpose of obtaining compensation. If convicted, Harder could receive up to 5 years in State Prison and a $50,000 fine.
Steve Harder filed a claim for Workers' Compensation benefits alleging that he had fallen from an excavator on May 5, 2004, causing a severe brain injury. Harder claimed his vision became very poor and that he lives in the dark because of the injury. He even refused to remove his dark glasses at his medical examinations, claiming the lighting in the offices hurt his eyes. He also claimed the injury affected his ability to walk. The claim was accepted and State Fund began providing Temporary Total Disability benefits. Information was later received that indicated the accident may have been staged and that Harder's injuries actually resulted from a non-industrial Motor Vehicle Accident.
A joint investigation by the California Department of Insurance and the Yolo County District Attorney's Office discovered the alleged fraud. Investigators discovered this during the course of a civil suit filed by Harder against the manufacturer of the equipment he was using at the time of the alleged injury. Harder appeared in court during the civil suit using a wheel chair. At a lunch recess, the Judge Pro Tem witnessed Harder walking to a restroom with a normal gait and without the assistance of a wheel chair or any other type of assistance.
Undercover video was obtained of Harder on September 10, 2008, showing him wearing a wet suit and engaging in mining activities. It was noted that during these activities, Harder was not wearing a hat or dark glasses. He was observed using a cane only occasionally.
Harder purportedly received $414,171 from State Fund Insurance. His civil suit against the manufacturer of the equipment he was using when he was injured was settled for $20,000. Harder was originally seeking $100,000.
Commissioner Poizner oversees sixteen CDI Enforcement Branch regional offices throughout the state. Nearly 2,800 insurance fraud-related arrests have been made by CDI since Commissioner Poizner took office in 2007 - more arrests than have been made during any other three year period, under any previous insurance commissioner.
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