In the wake of criminal charges against several of its members, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) is decrying an alleged scam that prosecutors say involved seven Long Beach dockworkers billing the union’s health insurance plan for sexual services disguised as physical therapy or chiropractic care.
The benefits in question “counteract the difficult work that longshore workers do on the docks every day, and they are vitally important to tens of thousands of people working at ports in California, Oregon and Washington,” ILWU Coast Committeeman Cam Williams said Monday. “The Officers of the ILWU take any fraudulent acts against the plan seriously and want such abuse rooted out.”
Last week, federal prosecutors unveiled charges that over half a million dollars was paid out by the union’s insurance plan following fraudulent claims submitted by 46-year-old Sara Victoria, the conspiracy’s alleged ringleader who operated three wellness and chiropractic clinics in the harbor area from 2017 to 2021.
Prosecutors say Victoria admitted in a plea agreement that she hired women from local strip clubs to work at the clinics where they offered sexual services. Prosecutors say Victoria knew dockworkers had insurance through the International Longshore and Warehouse Union–Pacific Maritime Association plan that generally had no deductible, copay or other out-of-pocket charges for chiropractic services, so she recruited them to submit fraudulent claims.
“In exchange for obtaining sexual services for themselves and their friends, ILWU-PMA plan members authorized Victoria to submit false claims for reimbursement for services not actually rendered, including chiropractic and physical therapy, using their names or the names of their family members, such as their spouses and children,” prosecutors said in a statement.
In addition, prosecutors said Victoria also admitted in a plea agreement to paying ILWU-PMA plan members cash kickbacks in exchange for authorization to submit false claims for reimbursement for services not actually rendered and using someone else’s identity without the person’s consent during the commission of the health care fraud conspiracy.
ILWU Coast Committeeman Frank Ponce De Leon condemned any fraudulent use of the union’s health insurance plan, which he said has been generations in the making and covers 17,000 port workers.
“Our union is proud to have negotiated health benefits with our employer that we believe all Americans should have,” Ponce de Leon said. “We will not tolerate fraudulent use of the benefits in our contract that longshore workers have fought for, and sometimes died for, over the past 90 years.”
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