SAN DIEGO — A former Amtrak employee who faked an injury and collected more than $650,000 in fraudulent insurance payments was sentenced in absentia to a lengthy prison term Friday.
Authorities issued an arrest warrant for Wanda Lee Ann Podgurski, 60, after she failed to show up to hear her verdict read.
Podgurski was sentenced to more than 20 years in state prison after being convicted of 29 felony counts related to insurance fraud. She was also ordered to pay more than $1 million in fines and restitution.
Podgurski, who worked as a clerk for Amtrak, claimed that she slipped at home in August 2006. At the time, she had six insurance policies and was paying about $60,000 a year in premiums while earning a salary of $44,000 a year, prosecutors said. She filed disability claims with all the insurers. She went to several doctors, who signed letters that she was disabled and needed home health assistance.
The insurance companies hired private investigators to watch Podgurski, prosecutors said. They observed her walking on stairs without assistance, driving herself on errands and doing other tasks she said she was unable to perform, prosecutors said. She also took traveled a great deal. including a 16-day vacation to China with her boyfriend and trips to Dominican Republic, New York, Seattle, Boston, Fort Lauderdale, Key West, Eureka, the Berkshires and other places.
By the time she was charged with fraud, Podgurski had collected $664,555.15 in disability payments, prosecutors said. She also filed a false insurance claim for $261,000 worth of stolen jewelry, they said.
“This type of fraud undermines critical services and care for disabled Californians, and victimizes taxpayers,” said State Controller and Franchise Tax Board Chair John Chiang. “I’m proud that our state tax investigators helped to end this costly criminal scheme.”
Podgurski was last living in Manhattan Beach in Los Angeles County. Anyone with information about her whereabouts is acked to call the U.S. Marshal Service at 619-557-6620.