A man who was pinned nearly completely underwater by work machinery last year was initially deprived of full workers' compensation because his employers committed insurance fraud, charges allege.
A Rogers couple who run Gould's Tree Service Inc. — Jerry M. Gould, 65, and Lorraine R. Gould, 62 — were charged Friday in Hennepin County District Court in the alleged scheme that initially deprived their employee of $4,286 in benefits.
Each was charged with one count of insurance fraud and theft by swindle.
The Goulds were charged via summons, meaning they will be allowed to turn themselves in to the sheriff's office at a future date for booking and will be immediately released.
They are accused of underreporting the employee's hours, which saved them the costs of annual insurance premiums and reduced the workers' compensation he received.
The Goulds did not return a message left at their business. Neither had an attorney listed.
"In this case, the Goulds attempted to scam the system to line their own pockets," Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Steve Kelley said in a statement.
The employee, who was identified by his initials in court documents, was pinned in a partly frozen pond submerged up to his nostrils. He subsequently underwent multiple surgeries and suffers from anxiety and post-traumatic stress, the charges said.
According to the criminal complaint: Jerry Gould and the employee were working on March 21, 2018, in Rogers. Jerry Gould was using a remote control to maneuver a scissor lift near an icy incline when he lost control. The machine slid down the hill, ensnaring both men as it flipped over and trapped them in the pond.
Jerry Gould freed himself in several seconds, but the employee's right arm was completely pinned by the machine.
Firefighters and the Rogers police chief responded, taking turns holding the worker's head above water for more than 30 minutes, causing his neck to hyperextend. The water was at his lower lip and at times, up to his nostrils.
"As time went on, responding personnel went as far as to obtain Victim's consent to amputate his right arm if necessary to save his life," the charges said.
He was freed without amputation by first responders from several agencies and a private tow company.
The victim was airlifted to North Memorial Medical Center in critical condition. He underwent surgeries for injuries to his pelvis, arm and shoulder.
Authorities allege that the Goulds had paid the victim and another employee partly in cash, classifying them as part time and reducing the workers' compensation they qualified for, the charges said.
Jerry Gould is listed as the company's chief executive and sole owner. He also trimmed trees for the company. Lorraine Gould identified herself as vice president or office clerk, and she submitted the paperwork regarding the victim's injuries, the charges said.
The victim hired a lawyer and was able to recover the shortfall in his compensation.
"This worker suffered terribly from an accident on the job and originally received only half of what he should have because his employer lied on the forms to a state-backed insurance program," Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said in a statement.