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Feds: Carpenters union members cheated on health care claims

Five members of a carpenters union from northwest Indiana have been charged with submitting and collecting on fraudulent health care claims from the union’s insurance provider.

The five members of the Indiana/Kentucky/Ohio Regional Council of Carpenters were each charged with one count of health care theft in a criminal information filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Northern Indiana.

Federal prosecutors allege all five “illegally gained assets from the Indiana/Kentucky/Ohio Regional Council of Carpenters Welfare Fund, a union health care benefit program,” a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s office said.

Each of the five requested medical expense reimbursement by submitting “a fraudulent claim form and a copy of an un-negotiated personal check for reimbursement. These documents gave the appearance that the defendants had paid a reimbursable health care expense,” according to prosecutors.

Each of the five were reimbursed for the claims, which “were never actually incurred,” the statement said.

Those charged, with the amount they allegedly received:

–Robert Gutierrez, 38, of Hammond, $19,771;

–Dennis Gardner, 52, of LaPorte, $15,000;

–Aaron Vaughan, 35, of Lake Station, $13,000;

–Bradley Crostreet, 45, of Valparaiso, $10,310.83; and

–Joshua Westfall, 38, of LaPorte, $6,380.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Labor, and prosecutors said, “we hope to charge others” as the investigation continues.