A former officer at Glades Correctional Institute was charged with fraudulently claiming $2.7 million in workers' compensation after he said he became ill from being exposed to rats and rat feces, Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater announced Friday.
David Brownell, 47, a former corrections officer, was charged with first-degree workers’ compensation fraud for allegedly faking his illness to collect more than $2.7 million in claims payments.
As a state employee, Brownell was paid for a 1995 claim by the Florida Division of Risk Management. That included more than $563,000 in alleged lost income, according to Atwater's office.
Brownell said work at the institution had exposed him to rats and rat feces that caused respiratory problems and 24-hour-a-day dependency on oxygen.
But an investigation by the Florida Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud revealed that the former officer could breathe without an oxygen mask.
"Extensive video surveillance over a period of several years revealed that not only was Brownell not oxygen-dependent but was able to play guitar in a band, attend a concert, drive, and smoke cigarettes," Atwater's office said in a statement released to the media. "Brownell’s statements under oath about his physical abilities contradicted behaviors captured during the video surveillance."
However, Brownell wore an oxygen mask when he surrendered Wednesday on the charge. He was booked into the Hillsborough County Jail and released after posting a $50,000 bond.
If convicted, he faces up to 30 years in prison.
"It is very disheartening to think that someone sworn to uphold the law may have violated it, and to such a costly degree," said Florida CFO Atwater. "The cost of insurance fraud comes directly out of the pockets of hard-working, honest Floridians and we will continue to pursue and bring to justice anyone we suspect of committing such crimes."
The charges against Brownell will be prosecuted by the dedicated Workers’ Compensation Fraud Prosecutor at the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office.
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