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North Dakota's 40th Conviction Coincides with New Focus on Employer Fraud


With little fanfare North Dakota Workers' Compensation recently won its 40th conviction for fraud. Though the event was not trumpeted to the press, it marked a milestone for Dave Aberle.

Aberle, manager of NWDC's Special Investigations Unit, has worked tirelessly to build the SIU into an effective deterrent. Created by the state legislature in 1993, the SIU was staffed with a single person in 1994 but has since grown to comprise four full-time investigators, a paralegal and administrative assistant. The legislature has recently approved hiring a fifth investigator.

In seven years the SIU has investigated 1670 cases; of these, 1506 focused on injured workers, 157 on employers, and seven involved medical providers. Aberle's team has saved NDWC $16.7 million.

Though the totals would seem to tilt against injured workers, the emphasis is shifting more toward keeping an eye on some of the businesses that employ them. "Our number one concern now is employers who don't provide coverage for their workers." Aberle said the new investigator will focus primarily on employer fraud.

The 40th conviction involved a businessman who was running two businesses "under the table," even while he filed monthly reports claiming to be totally disabled himself and collected benefits for the past decade. He was ordered to pay restitution and serve five years probation, the first year under court supervision.

Aberle, who had 20 years of experience with the police and sheriff's departments of Bismarck prior to joining NDWC, does not expect a major shift toward employer fraud cases. "We have about 22,000 employer accounts, and that stays pretty constant. But about 20,000 new claims are filed each year, and as many as 3 percent of those might be referred for investigation. So, obviously, we're going to see more cases involving workers."

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Workers' Comp Cycle
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North Dakota's 40th Conviction
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September 11,2001
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