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Fugitive tweets taunt to D.A., then gets caught in Mexico

July 08, 2013|By Tony Perry
  • Wanda Podgurski fled after being convicted in January of disability and insurance fraud. She was apprehended last week in Mexico and returned to San Diego.
Wanda Podgurski fled after being convicted in January of disability and… (San Diego District Attorney )

A former Amtrak clerk who fled after being convicted of disability and insurance fraud in January has been apprehended in Mexico, the San Diego County district attorney's office said Monday.

Wanda Lee Ann Podgurski, 60, had allegedly taunted law enforcement authorities after she disappeared, including a tweet thought to be directed at D.A. Bonnie Dumanis: "Catch me if you can."

Podgurski was arrested Thursday in Rosarito by the Fugitive Task Force. The case, and taunting tweet, had been turned over to the U.S. Marshal and the Computer and Technology Crime High-Tech Response Team, authorities said.

She was arraigned Monday in San Diego Superior Court on a charge of failing to appear while on bail.

“The defendant in this case was brazen in both the large-scale fraud she committed and the way she mocked the criminal justice system,” said Dumanis.

 Podgurski, in absentia, was sentenced to 20 years in prison after being convicted of receiving more than $650,000 in disability and insurance payments after faking injuries.

Podgurski had been free on $500,000 bail during the two-month trial. Her last known address was in Manhattan Beach.

Podgurski said that she slipped and fell at her home in 2006 and said she was so severely disabled that she needed an in-home caregiver.

But during a time when she was allegedly disabled, Podgurski traveled to the Dominican Republic, New York, Seattle, Boston, Fort Lauderdale and other destinations, prosecutors said. Among her trips was a 16-day tour to China in 2008 with a boyfriend, prosecutors said.

Podgurski collected payments from seven insurance companies and a government agency.

"This was an extreme case, but any level of disability fraud ultimately increases insurance costs for everyone," Dumanis said.

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tony.perry@latimes.com

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