When You’re Not Really Disabled, National TV Should be Avoided

Suppose you’re disabled, and collecting disability from your insurance company. If your disability is supposedly keeping you from work, appearing on a nationally televised show where you are demonstrating your skills—skills you supposedly can’t do while disabled—could lead to problems.

Ronald Hunt of Sunland, California was an interior designer. He went on disability sometime around 2003. There was only one minor problem: He continued to work. He also decided to help his business by appearing on HGTV, a home improvement and decorating cable television channel.

Mr. Hunt knew that lots of people try to improve their homes, and appearing on television might help sales. But Mr. Hunt forgot that even employees of insurance companies, including his insurance company, watch HGTV. Yes, an employee familiar with his claim saw the supposedly disabled Mr. Hunt show his skills on national television. The California Department of Insurance investigated and found that Mr. Hunt wasn’t as disabled as he said in his claims; he managed to work from 2003 – 2006. Additionally, the investigation disclosed that Mr. Hunt earned $400,500 of income while on disability…income that somehow forgot to be included on his California tax return.

Mr. Hunt pleaded guilty to insurance fraud and state income tax fraud. He must make restitution of $151,000 to his insurance company and $31,000 to the Franchise Tax Board. Sometimes free advertising should be passed up.


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