California Medical Facility (CMF), Correctional Business Manager, Collette Preszler-Riley was found not guilty of all felony workers’ Compensation fraud charges by a Solano County Jury on January 21st, 2015. Ms. Preszler-Riley’s lead trial counsel was Mr. Paul Q. Goyette.
Ms. Preszler-Riley had been a long term employee of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). She had previously held a variety of managerial titles, including Employee Relations Officer (ERO). In 2011, she was the Correctional Business Manager at CMF in Vacaville, California. Ms. Preszler-Riley had served as acting Associate Warden on several occasions. On June 9th, 2011, she injured her back pushing two full boxes of legal size copy paper boxes aside to enter her office. Ms. Preszler-Riley attempted to make it through the remainder of the work day, intending to see her private doctor that evening. However, the Warden’s office became aware that Ms. Preszler-Riley had injured herself and was in significant pain. The Warden ordered Ms. Preszler-Riley to go to the hospital, and had a member of his staff drive her to the emergency room, and later home. The next day, she was required to see the Workers’ Compensation Doctors who provide all of the medical care for the Workers’ Compensation patients in the Vacaville/Fairfield area. Ms. Preszler-Riley did so and was scheduled to return to work on June 13, 2011.
When Ms. Preszler-Riley returned to work on June 13, 2011, she was removed from a meeting and ordered to meet with the Warden and Chief Deputy Warden concerning her injury. At that time, she was told she was being sent home until the Workers’ Compensation medical providers cleared her for work. Ms. Preszler-Riley was also ordered to sign the workers compensation claim form, which she did not complete and had previously refused to sign.
Ms. Preszler-Riley now started a process that lasted six months and include numerous doctors’ visits, follow ups, various tests, MRI’s, and the like. Throughout, Ms. Preszler-Riley had highly fluctuating degrees of pain and discomfort, but could otherwise move freely, and essentially perform any activity. At all times, Ms. Preszler-Riley wanted to return to work and could not understand why she was not allowed to do so, considering the Business Manager position she held was essentially a sedentary position.
For reasons that are still unclear, in about August or September 2011, State Compensation Insurance Fund (SCIF) flagged Ms. Preszler-Riley’s claim as possibly requiring a fraud investigation. This appears to be partially due to the constant urging of Ms. Preszler-Riley’s highly disgruntled ex-husband, whose best friend was then the ERO at CMF. Ms. Preszler-Riley had recommended Mr. Riley’s friend for her former position when she promoted.
Beginning in early September, SCIF hired private investigators to conduct several weeks of video surveillance. The videos showed Ms. Preszler-Riley doing a variety of daily activities such as grocery shopping, driving, and sitting or standing at social events. The videos did not show Ms. Preszler- Riley performing any strenuous activity. Eventually, Ms. Preszler-Riley returned to work on December 8th, 2011.
Ultimately, the Solano County District Attorney’s Office filed three (3) felony counts for: Workers’ Compensation Fraud, Insurance Fraud and Grand Theft against Ms. Preszler-Riley. After various lengthy delays, Ms. Preszler-Riley’s jury trial finally started on January 7, 2015. At trial, the prosecution’s theory was simply that Ms. Preszler-Riley’s clinical picture, which she presented at certain visits to the workers compensation doctors, was not consistent with her activities shown on surveillance videos on other days. The Defense was able to clearly establish several key points, including the fact that Ms. Preszler-Riley was diagnosed with a number of clear medical conditions that could cause pain; that the medical conditions caused high fluctuations in pain, even on an hourly and daily basis; Ms. Preszler-Riley was never limited in her activities or movements in any way; and video evidence of her grocery shopping on one day is meaningless as evidence of Ms. Preszler-Riley’s symptoms which she reported to doctors days or weeks later. The jury quickly agreed.
After three hours of deliberation, the jury returned not guilty verdicts on all counts.