‘Injured’ Verizon worker pleads guilty in Workers Comp scam
A Staten Island phone worker pleaded guilty to stealing more than $37,000 in workers’ compensation benefits by claiming job-related injuries — while he taught kickboxing.
Eugene Reems, 49, of Colony Avenue, pleaded guilty in Staten Island Supreme Court, state Inspector General Catherine Leahy Scott and Staten Island District Attorney Mike McMahon said Tuesday.
Reems began receiving benefits after he said he was hurt in 2007 while working as a lineman for Verizon on Staten Island.
But in 2012, he began teaching martial arts at CKO Kickboxing on Westerleigh, a business that was opened by his wife and a cousin, an investigation by Leahy Scott found.
While working at the school through May 2014, Reems was caught on surveillance video performing powerful kicking and punching moves, although he told doctors at the time that he was unable to work.
“The defendant’s repeated assertions that he was physically unable to work as a telephone company lineman, while at the same time demonstrating kicks and power punches as a martial-arts instructor, was a brazen fraud perpetrated on a critical safety net meant for honest, hardworking New Yorkers,” Leahy Scott said.
McMahon said, “While collecting disability checks, this defendant was found to be perfectly capable of earning an income on his own.”
Reems, who couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday, has agreed to pay $37,500 in restitution and has forfeited any future workers’ compensation benefits.
Workers’ compensation fraud impacts all New Yorkers, from increased insurance premiums to increased work loads for coworkers and an overall reduction in workforce productivity, Leahy Scott said.