The California Department of Insurance announced $5.9 million in grant money today to help the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office investigate and prosecute workers' compensation insurance fraud.
The Orange County District Attorney will get $3.6 million as part of $32 million in grants awarded statewide, while Riverside and San Diego counties were awarded $1.5 million and $4.5 million, respectively.
State Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said workers' compensation fraud places a "significant" added burden on the insurance system at a time when the state is facing a $15.7 billion budget deficit.
"We have an obligation to provide protection to injured workers who require both care and compensation so they are able to get back to work as quickly as possible, while also rooting out fraud perpetrated by those seeking to game the system," Jones said.
The DOI awards grants annually based on the offices' applications and previous year's performance.
Deputy District Attorney John Morris, who's in charge of the Health Care Fraud Division in Los Angeles County, said he plans to use the new round of grant money to hire an additional prosecutor and support staff.
Over the last two fiscal years, Los Angeles County has more than tripled the number of criminal filings related to workers' compensation fraud cases, Morris said.
The increased filings and prosecutions have a "widespread deterrent effect on people committing workers' compensation fraud," he said. "Additionally, it provides a warning to businesses that they must provide workers' compensation insurance protection for their employees."
The largest number of fraud cases involve business owners illegally neglecting to provide the insurance, neglecting to pay their premiums or lying on their applications to get lower premiums.