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Former Manhattan Beach Woman Convicted of Insurance Fraud

Wanda Lee An Podgurski
Wanda Lee An Podgurski
Wanda Lee Ann Podgurski, 60, whose last known address was in Manhattan Beach, was sentenced Friday to 20 years, four months in state prison after being convicted of 29 felony counts related to an insurance fraud scam. She was ordered to pay more than one million dollars in fines and restitution, according to Bonnie Dumanis, San Diego district attorney.

Authorities are looking for Podgurski, who has been a fugitive since her January conviction on 29 felony counts of insurance fraud, tax evasion, perjury and grand theft from the Amtrak Railroad Retirement Board and private insurance companies. A warrant was issued Friday for her arrest. 

Podgurski, who fraudulently netted $664,555.15 in disability payments, said she was disabled after falling in her home. Seven different insurance companies and a government agency paid her the cash.

“This was an extreme case," said Dumanis, "but any level of disability fraud ultimately increases insurance costs for everyone. Our Disability and Healthcare Insurance Fraud Program investigates and prosecutes fraudulent medical and disability claims and policies. In addition to holding defendants accountable for their crimes, we’re also protecting the public from rising healthcare costs due to fraud.”    

Podgurski, who made about $44,000 per year as a clerk for Amtrak, held insurance policies with six insurance companies: Balboa, Reassure America, Prudential, Kanawha, Unum and MetLife, according to Dumanis.

In 2006, Podgurski increased the coverage on several policies, increasing her premiums to more than $60,000 per year. Under the policies, if she became disabled, she could begin to collect disability insurance payments and would no longer have to pay the premiums. 

Podgurski claimed in August of 2006 that she slipped and fell at home. She submitted claims with six insurance companies and Amtrak, saying she was disabled. The long-term care policies that covered her required that she must be unable to do two or more activities of daily living: dressing, toileting, transferring, feeding, bathing, mobility. Podgurski said she was unable to do several of those activities.

Relying heavily on the defendant's self-reporting, several doctors who examined Podgurski signed letters verifying she was disabled and needed home health assistance. 

Insurance company private investigators watched Podgurski, and on several occasions she was seen walking stairs without assistance, driving herself to the store, running errands by herself and performing other tasks. After viewing videos showing her in action, one of her doctors viewed the videos and said she had clearly deceived him and she was not disabled. 

During the time she claimed to be disabled, Podgurski traveled on a 16-day tour to China in 2008 with her boyfriend, to the Dominican Republic, New York, Seattle, Boston, and Fort Lauderdale, and took road trips to Key West, Eureka, the Berkshires and other destinations. 

Said State Controller and Franchise Tax Board Chair John Chiang, “This type of fraud undermines critical services and care for disabled Californians, and victimizes taxpayers. I’m proud that our state tax investigators helped to end this costly criminal scheme.” 

Anyone with information about where Podgurski might be is asked to call the U.S. Marshal Service at (619) 557-6620. 

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