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Rogers tree trimming company owners charged with insurance fraud following accident that hurt employee

Updated: November 01, 2019 06:23 PM

The owners of a Rogers tree trimming company face charges following an insurance fraud scheme that was discovered after one of their employees nearly drowned in an accident, according to the Hennepin County Attorney's Office. 

The attorney's office said Jerry and Lorraine Gould, the owners of Gould's Tree Service, were charged with insurance fraud and attempted theft by swindle. 

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According to a criminal complaint, Jerry Gould and an employee were trimming trees at a home in Rogers on March 21, 2018. While the two were working, the lift they were on lost control and slid downhill, overturning in a partially frozen pond. 

Gould was able to free himself while the employee had to be extricated. 

Horrific accident, amazing rescue in Rogers

The complaint said the employee suffered a number of injuries, as well as anxiety and post-traumatic stress. 

The worker later spoke with police about the Goulds' employment practices, which raised concerns about workers' compensation insurance fraud. 

During an investigation, the Minnesota Commerce Fraud Bureau learned the Goulds were underreporting payroll costs to the company that provides workers' compensation insurance. As a result, the Goulds were charged less for workers' compensation insurance. 

The county attorney's office said the day after the accident, Lorraine Gould sent the insurance company the first report regarding the employee's injury and "intentionally lied about the injured man's wages, hours worked and status."  

The insurance company then used that information to calculate the amount the injured man received, which was half of what he should have received. 

"There's surprisingly more work than we can handle at one given time," Matthew Vatter, the Assistant Commissioner of Enforcement at the Minnesota Commerce Department, said.

He says often workers' comp insurance fraud comes to light when someone is hurt."It's actually a fairly prolific problem that we have... evading payments for workman's compensation is one way for a company to kind of shave off costs," he said.

The Goulds were charged via summons. Their first court appearance is set for Jan. 3. 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS made multiple attempts to reach the couple charged, but at last check has yet to hear back.

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