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Farmhand Sentenced for Fraud : Courts: Oxnard man sought workers’ compensation for injury, but authorities said it came in attack on wife.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

An Oxnard farm worker who broke a finger beating up his wife and later claimed the injury occurred on the job was sentenced Tuesday to 90 days in custody for workers’ compensation fraud, a prosecutor said.

Prior to Tuesday’s sentence, Miguel Gamez, 23, already had been convicted of spousal abuse for the attack on his wife, Deputy Dist. Atty. Rhonda Schmidt said.

Gamez is the second Ventura County defendant sentenced for defrauding the state workers’ comp system since the district attorney made the crime a higher priority last year.

He claimed a work-related injury on March 31, 1993, saying he broke his right pinky finger while pulling some rope around a strawberry crate at work, authorities said.

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But the doctor who examined Gamez noticed that the injury was not consistent with the defendant’s story of how it occurred.

“The doctor who first examined him said, ‘Hey, this wasn’t an industrial injury. This was a boxer’s fracture,’ ” Schmidt said.

Gamez was charged with two counts of workers’ compensation fraud last February. He eventually pleaded guilty in June to one of the felony counts, authorities said.

On Tuesday, Acting Superior Court Judge Bruce A. Clark reduced the conviction to a misdemeanor and ordered Gamez to serve his custody time in the county’s work-furlough program.

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The program allows inmates to go to work during the day while spending nights at a lockup at the Camarillo Airport.

Prosecutors had recommended a 180-day sentence for Gamez.

In handing down the sentence, however, Clark noted that Gamez is employed and has been performing satisfactorily on probation for the spousal abuse conviction, Schmidt said.

Deputy Public Defender William S. Markov, Gamez’s lawyer, maintained Tuesday that his client suffered the work-related injury he reported.

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Gamez decided to plead guilty because he did not want to suffer a felony conviction and did not want to miss work to attend a trial, his lawyer said.

Two weeks before he filed his false workers’ comp claim, Gamez assaulted his wife, authorities said. He was charged with spousal abuse, but returned to work after being released from jail.

It was at that time that he went to a local doctor with a complaint of a hand injury, Schmidt said. That was when the doctor noticed the injury Gamez complained of was at least two weeks old and that it appeared to have been consistent with Gamez striking someone, she said.

Markov said Gamez never specifically claimed to have injured his pinky finger at work.

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“Mr. Gamez didn’t say, ‘I fractured my fifth metacarpal when I was working on the job.’ He just said, ‘I hurt my hand,’ ” Markov said.

Markov also said Gamez suffered a work-related injury prior to beating his wife.

The defendant can clearly recall that injury because his hand was so sore when he hit his wife that he couldn’t close his fist, Markov said.


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