BELLINGHAM - A former Bellingham nurse has pleaded guilty to faking injuries so she could collect thousands of dollars in insurance claims.
Jennifer Wolford, aka Jeni Fredericks, 40, agreed to repay $65,000 in exchange for a few months off her suggested sentence of 1 1/2 years in prison.
If she doesn't pay the majority of the money, $50,000, by the end of March, her guilty pleas will be voided and the case may proceed to trial, where she would face a much stiffer sentence.
Prosecutors charged Wolford with faking back, shoulder and neck pain so she could fabricate disability claims, to the tune of $100,000.
In 2006, she claimed she had back pain from carrying luggage and got $2,940 for the time she had to spend away from work - except she was working, and healthy enough to work, the entire time, according to charging documents filed in Whatcom County Superior Court. Five similar claims were made during her employment at a Bellingham podiatrist's office. Signatures of both her doctor and her employer were forged.
For reasons that are in dispute in a separate civil lawsuit, Wolford was fired in 2007.
She then got a new job at a day care, and the claims kept coming. Wolford filed paperwork with the state Department of Labor and Industries saying she fell down stairs at a new house, whiplashing her neck, according to the charges. Then she invented another injury to her neck in 2010, when another car supposedly backed into her, netting her a claim of $6,347.
She pleaded guilty last week to six counts of theft. Some of those felonies could be nixed at her sentencing hearing in March, if she's caught up with her restitution payments.
A bench trial in the lawsuit brought against by her former employer, foot surgeon Anthony Karuza, is set to begin March 5. Karuza claims she libeled him on the Internet by posting bogus smear reviews of his practice after she was fired.
He calculated the 191 page views on one site equaled a loss of about $34,200 in patient fees, plus serious damage to his reputation. So his lawyer pinned the total requested award at $136,800.
Wolford had a past conviction for trying to forge prescriptions for Lorazepam, an anti-anxiety drug. In court filings, Karuza stated he didn't know about the conviction until after she was fired.
Wolford applied for a new nursing license in 2010. She was officially denied two years later.