COVID-19 has changed the landscape of the workplace permanently.
Though there have been some changes that workers enjoy (such as working remotely, not sitting in traffic, etc.), there are a few employees who have tried to take advantage of this perilous culture we’re living in right now.
In May 2020, Santwon Antonio Davis submitted falsified paperwork to his boss, claiming that he had contracted COVID-19. Out of concern for the other employees and staff, the company chose to shut down its operations and have it cleaned.
During the time the building was closed, the employees were paid in full. This cost the company more than $100,000 in losses, not to mention all the unnecessary quarantine for the healthy employees.
“The defendant caused unnecessary economic loss to his employer and distress to his coworkers and their families,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak. “We will take quick action through the Georgia COVID-19 Task Force to put a stop to Coronavirus-related fraud schemes.”
More shocking is this is not Davis’ first fraudulent claim.
In 2019, Davis submitted paperwork claiming he was mourning the loss of a child and filed for bereavement benefits. It turns out that the child never existed and Davis fabricated the story to receive unwarranted benefits.
Furthermore, Davis had tried to apply for a mortgage using false employment history and fabricated earnings statements. In fact, the mortgage company discovered this information when it came out in Davis’ pretrial for the COVID-19 fraud charge.
“Davis’ streak of lies ended when he took advantage of a pandemic to cause undue harm to the company he worked for and their employees,” said Chris Hacker, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “The FBI and our federal and state partners remain vigilant in detecting, investigating and prosecuting any fraud related to this crisis we are all facing.”
According to the report:
Santwon Antonio Davis, 35, of Atlanta, Georgia, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge William M. Ray, II, to a wire fraud charge related to a scheme to defraud his employer and to a bank fraud charge relating to the mortgage fraud. Davis was previously charged with wire fraud in May 2020. He pleaded guilty admitting that he falsely represented he had COVID-19 and to other fraud offenses that were uncovered during the COVID-19 fraud investigation. Sentencing has not yet been scheduled.
This case was handled by Georgia’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Fraud Task Force, a group specifically designed to review and penalize cases of fraud in relation to COVID-19. The task force is combined of many agencies cooperating together for the purpose of sharing information quickly and efficiently, with the goal of keeping Georgia’s public safe.
Davis’ case is still under investigation by the FBI.
Workers’ compensation and COVID-19
Under Georgia law, COVID-19 doesn’t currently qualify as an occupational disease and you will not receive compensation if you contract the virus while on the job. The reasoning behind this decision is that COVID-19 is so prevalent everywhere, it would be nearly impossible to prove that you became sick while on the job as opposed to at the grocery store, at the park, at the gym, etc.
While you may not receive workers’ compensation, you may be eligible for other benefits due to the impact of the coronavirus on your company.