DA: Freeport man charged in workers' comp fraud
A Freeport man who claimed to be disabled was arrested Tuesday on charges of stealing workers' compensation benefits after he was seen on video using a chain saw while on a ladder and carrying equipment at "multiple" construction sites, prosecutors said.
Hugh Coogan, 55, had claimed he suffered "total disability" from a workplace injury in 2004, Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said.
But, Rice said, an insurance company surveillance video showed Coogan "performing strenuous physical labor" on "multiple occasions" -- all, as Coogan collected $23,000 in compensation between February 2012 and last April.
"Workers' compensation benefits are reserved for those who are truly disabled, but video evidence clearly shows Mr. Coogan performing tasks that would be impossible given his supposed injury," Rice said in her statement Tuesday.
But Coogan's attorney, Marvin Hirsch in Mineola, said his client is "medically and legally disabled" and has not violated workers' compensation rules.
"If you're disabled, it doesn't mean you have to sit in a wheelchair or on a park bench," Hirsch said. He said the rules don't bar people from "helping a friend move furniture" or other activities that may require some physical work.
Rice said surveillance video also recorded Coogan:
Carrying tools and equipment at a Freeport home that was under construction in February 2012, just hours after a doctor's appointment during which he told his physician that he was not working and had chronic back and leg pain.
Removing tools, equipment and ladders from his truck and bringing them back and forth at a Garden City construction site in May 2012.
- Climbing a ladder in a wooded area near his house to use hedge clippers to cut down branches in June 2012. He was seen climbing the same ladder with a chain saw to cut down larger branches, and then dragging the branches out to the street.
- Cutting a piece of PVC pipe and then carrying the pipe, toolsand wire items back and forth at an Atlantic Beach home under construction in October 2012.
Rice said Coogan was working as a carpenter for Eastern Mill Work, a subcontractor for Turner Construction, when he claimed a work-related injury in September 2004.
That claim involved a back injury suffered while installing a door, and Rice said Coogan has collected benefits since. An insurance investigation, launched in February 2012, revealed that Coogan continued to work on homes in Nassau at the same time he received benefits, the district attorney said.
Coogan was arraigned Tuesday on charges of third-degree grand larceny, third-degree insurance fraud, first-degree perjury and Workers' Compensation Fraud. He was released on his own recognizance.
He faces up to 7 years in prison if convicted.
With Ellen Yan