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Ventura County

Woman Pleads Guilty to Workers' Comp Fraud

Courts: The defendant, who was caught on video playing softball, faces sentencing in May.

April 10, 2002|STEVE CHAWKINS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A 42-year-old Ventura woman has pleaded guilty to workers' compensation insurance fraud after being videotaped playing softball and using a slide at a water park.

Darlene Berdeaux, a former waitress at Seaside Park, is scheduled to be sentenced May 6.

In an interview Tuesday, she said she pleaded guilty because she was hampered by financial problems.

"My hands are tied," said Berdeaux, who received $10,563 in disability payments and took private-investigator training classes valued at more than $12,000. "The people that know me know I'm not guilty. People who abuse the system: I'm not one of them."

Berdeaux's problems started in 1997 when her hand was burned on the job. She received a Demerol shot in her right hip and complained of severe pain there for more than two years, according to a statement from the district attorney's office. As a result, she received disability benefits and job training.

However, investigators became suspicious when they received videotapes of Berdeaux sliding into base at her daughter's softball game and using a slide at the Hurricane Harbor water park.

But she was only filling in on her daughter's team during a scrimmage, Berdeaux said. And at Hurricane Harbor, the heat of the day and the warm water were therapeutic aids for her bursitis, she said.

After watching the videos, two of her physicians told authorities that they believed Berdeaux had lied to them about her pain, according to a statement from the district attorney's office issued after her plea Monday.

The maximum penalty for workers' compensation insurance fraud is a five-year prison term and a $50,000 fine.

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