A Far Rockaway restaurant owner was arrested on felony charges Thursday, accused of fraudulently accepting disability and workers’ compensation payments, Nassau police said.
Michelle Buggs, 45, of Inwood, was charged with grand larceny, insurance and workers’ compensation fraud, perjury and offering a false instrument for filing.
Authorities said she accepted more than $69,000 while claiming a disability, despite evidence that her injury had healed.
She was released on her own recognizance and is due back in court on Aug. 26. Buggs’ attorney, Scott Gross of Garden City, said his client denies the charges.
“She looks forward to fighting this case in court,” Gross said.
Buggs faces up to 5 to 15 years in prison if convicted of the top charges.
The Nassau County district attorney’s office said Buggs was hurt on the job on Oct. 18, 2006, while employed as a baker and cake decorator at a Glen Head Waldbaum’s. She suffered an injury to her right wrist while helping a fallen customer from the floor and back to her walker. The Workers’ Compensation Board approved disability payments as a result.
State records show Buggs filed incorporation papers for a restaurant named It’z All 4 U in August 2012. The restaurant was later featured in a local newspaper in January 2014, prosecutors said.
During a December 2014, independent medical exam, Buggs said she had not been able to work since the injury, prosecutors said. During a February 2015, workers’ compensation hearing, she said she didn’t own a business, according to prosecutors.
During surveillance of the restaurant by authorities in February 2015, Buggs was seen cooking, working the register, serving customers and carrying items and deliveries using her right hand, prosecutors said.
“When individuals decide to scam the system by filing fraudulent disability insurance claims, they are undermining that very system designed to help those in need,” District Attorney Madeline Singas said in a statement.