Thursday, February 23, 2006

Worker's comp cheater earns year's jail time

Worker's comp cheater earns year's jail time
Videotape evidence helped sink defendant
By Malaika Fraley, STAFF WRITER

Former San Mateo County collections worker Yolanda Dobkins was sentenced to a year in jail Tuesday for misrepresenting an injury in order to collect worker's compensation.

Dobkins' family members broke out in tears after Judge Craig Parsons denied home detention or probation in lieu of jail time for the 54-year-old San Francisco resident. Dobkins also received five years supervised probation and was ordered to pay $67,000 to cover costs for the investigation that led to her conviction.

A jury convicted Dobkins in November of four counts of insurance fraud and attempted perjury. She was acquitted of five other related charges.

Dobkins had worked as a full-time county collections officer since 1998 when, in February 2001, she filed a workers' compensation claim for bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome. Dobkins, who has had multiple surgeries on both arms and suffers from reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome, told the county she couldn't work because simple tasks like shaking hands had become unbearable.

Prosecutor Kathryn Alberti said Dobkins exaggerated the seriousness of her injury to collect $24,000 in state disability payments and $10,000 in worker's compensation benefits.

The county — which is self-insured and pays worker's compensation claims out of its general fund — investigated the claim after a secretary spotted Dobkins prying open an elevator door after a meeting at which she said she had limited hand function.

Soon, independent investigators began secretly videotaping Dobkins and obtained footage of her doing tasks she said were unbearable, such as lifting heavy objects and washing her car. Dobkins was slapped with criminal charges after she claimed to have not done such tasks at a deposition with investigators who had seen the footage.

Her attorney, Kathleen McCasey, asked for a new trial on Tuesday, based on what she called vindictive behavior by county employees who investigated her client and ambiguity by the person whose questions led to attempted perjury. McCasey added that the jury should have been allowed to hear about Dobkins' additional surgeries.

Judge Parsons rejected McCasey's argument and said that he considered sentencing Dobkins to the maximum term of six years in prison because of her failure to admit any wrongdoing to this day.

"The defendant expresses no remorse. She continues to deny responsibility and, most importantly, Ms. Dobkins continues to portray herself as a victim rather than someone who ... lied under oath and committed a serious felony," Parsons said.

Contact staff writer Malaika Fraley at (650) 306-2425 or by e-mail at

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