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Pinellas Park Man Charged with Workers’ Compensation Fraud

5/31/2002

TALLAHASSEE - A Pinellas Park man is facing fraud and grand theft charges for allegedly cashing his wife's disability checks for six months after her death in June 2001.

George Kulek, Jr., 47, of 6486 81st Ave. N., was arrested Wednesday evening by an officer with the Pinellas Park Police Department on a warrant obtained by the Department of Insurance, Division of Insurance Fraud. Both charges are third-degree felonies.

Kulek's wife began receiving workers' compensation disability checks in 1992 after she was injured while working for a fast-food chain in New York. The couple moved to Pinellas Park later that same year.

Bi-weekly checks had been sent to the Kuleks' post office box in Pinellas Park through the end of 2001, and the checks continued to be cashed. In December 2001, the disability insurance company was notified by Social Security that Mrs. Kulek died on June 20, 2001.

In late December 2001, Kulek contacted the insurance company to ask why his wife's check was late. This past January, the insurance company received a phone call from someone claiming to be Mrs. Kulek and inquiring about the status of her check. The caller was asked if she had received a form that had been sent, and the caller said no. Another form was sent.

Later in January, investigators said, Kulek took the form to a notary who knew the Kuleks, believed Mrs. Kulek was in a nursing home and that Kulek had power of attorney over her affairs. The acquaintance notarized the document.

The checks cashed after Mrs. Kulek's death totaled $2,268, and all carried the same warning: "IF THE PERSON TO WHOM THIS CHECK IS PAYABLE IS DEAD, THIS CHECK SHOULD BE RETURNED IMMEDIATELY TO THE STATE INSURANCE FUND, 199 CHURCH STREET, NEW YORK, NEW YORK 10007."

The Department of Insurance, Division of Insurance Fraud, investigates various forms of fraud in insurance, including health, life, auto, property and workers' compensation insurance. Anyone with information about this case or another possible fraud scheme should call the Department's Fraud Hotline at 1-800-378-0445. A reward of up to $25,000 is offered for information leading to a conviction.