A onetime U.S. Postal Service employee in western Minnesota has admitted to vigorously participating in dog agility events while cheating the government out of more than $100,000 in federal disability benefits by falsely claiming that a workplace injury sharply limited her time on the job.
Lisa A. Schafer, 57, of Glenwood, pleaded guilty in federal court in St. Paul last week to theft of government funds in connection with the thefts that spanned more than 3½ years until May 2019.
In exchange for her guilty plea, the U.S. Attorney's Office said it would ask the court to spare Schafer a prison term of 10 to 16 months under federal guidelines and instead recommend probation, 109 hours of community service and full restitution. A sentencing date has yet to be set.
According to the defendant's guilty plea and court documents:
Schafer claimed benefits by falsely asserting that a work-related injury prevented her from working full time.
She told her doctor that her medical condition required her to rest most of the day and that she could tolerate only sedentary work. Her doctor limited her to no more than two hours of office work a day, a restriction that kicked in her disability benefits.
However, during this time, Schafer was seen participating in 30 to 40 dog-agility competitions, where she was recorded on video "running around arenas, bending quickly at the waist, and using large arm movements to navigate dogs through various exercises," read her plea filing.
"When confronted with these videos, the defendant's treating physician opined that [Schafer] could have been working an eight-hour day" all along, the filing continued. Instead, she collected $108,490.47 in disability benefits.
Schafer left the Postal Service on April 30, 2019.
"The American public trusts that U.S. Postal Service employees will obey the law," said John D. Masters, special agent-in-charge of the western field office of the Postal Service's Office of the Inspector General. "[Schafer's] plea sends a clear message that workers' compensation fraud is a federal crime, which carries serious consequences."
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482