Special to Iredell Free News
CHARLOTTE – A Mooresville man pleaded guilty on Wednesday to workers’ compensation fraud in connection with a scheme in which he bilked the federal government out of more than $100,000.
Johnnie Franklin Sullivan Sr., 73, remains free on bond after entering a guilty plea before U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan C. Rodriguez.
Dena J. King, U.S. Attorney for the Western of North Carolina, announced the guilty plea in a news release.
According to court documents and evidence presented Wednesday, Sullivan was employed by the U.S. Postal Service as a mail processing clerk in Charlotte. In May 2005, Sullivan sustained an injury at work. Later that year, he began to receive workers’ compensation benefits administered by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs or employees covered by the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA).
In order to receive and maintain FECA benefits, Sullivan, Sr. was required to submit periodic reports regarding his physical condition and his inability to perform a Postal Service job.
Court documents show that, on multiple occasions, Sullivan made false statements and material misrepresentations regarding his physical abilities and medical restrictions. Among the false claims Sullivan made was that he was unable to sit for long periods of time, that he could only drive short distances, that he needed to use a cane when he walked, and that he was unable to travel or engage in hobbies and other recreational activities due to his medical condition.
As a result of the statements, Sullivan received payments totaling more than $103,261.
According to court records, during the time that Sullivan made these false claims, he was posting on social media photos of his many long-distance trips and physically rigorous activities. For example, he posted photos of himself traveling to places in Europe and the United States; walking long distances over different types of terrain; ziplining in Niagara Falls, N.Y.; using surf boards and boogie boards during beach vacations; and participating in shag dancing events.
“For years, Sullivan, Sr. lied about his pain and suffering caused by an on-the-job injury to bilk the federal workers’ compensation program out of thousands of dollars, and used the funds to pay for recreational activities,” said U.S. Attorney King. “When individuals defraud an important program meant to protect injured federal workers, my Office will make sure they are held accountable for their actions.”
“Most postal employees who collect workers’ compensation benefits have legitimate claims. A small percentage, however, abuse the system and cost the Postal Service millions of dollars in fraudulent claims and enforcement costs. Therefore, USPS OIG Special Agents will continue to relentlessly pursue those identified as fraudulently collecting workers’ compensation funds from the Postal Service,” said USPS OIG Special Agent in Charge Jeff Krafels.
Sullivan pleaded guilty to making a false report in connection with federal compensation benefits and theft of government funds. He was released on bond after the court hearing. A sentencing date has not been set.