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Comp fraud conviction blocks naturalization application


A federal appeals court Wednesday upheld a district court’s ruling that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services did not err in denying a woman’s naturalization application because of a workers compensation fraud conviction.

Blanca Orellana, a citizen of El Salvador, injured her neck, hands, right foot and back in February 2002 while working for Ocadian Care Centers LLC, based in Belvedere Tiburon, California, according to documents in Orellana v. Mayorkas.

Ms. Orellana said she was unable to work because of her injuries and filed a disability claim. Ocadian accepted the claim, and by Dec. 2, 2002, had paid out nearly $38,000 in temporary disability and medical treatment.

Surveillance of Ms. Orellana found that she continued to work between April and August 2002 and showed no signs of impairment. A criminal complaint was filed against her, and she was convicted of failing to disclose her outside employment and ordered to pay Ocadian $30,000 in restitution.

In 2004, a workers compensation appeals board approved a separate agreement settling Ms. Orellana’s workers compensation claim for $42,700, with the restitution deducted from the settlement.

Years later, when she applied for naturalization, her application was denied because the fraud conviction’s loss to the victim exceeded $10,000. She appealed to a district court which dismissed her complaint.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco upheld the lower court decision. Although Ms. Orellana argued that the actual loss from her conduct was “at most $5,010,” the appellate court disagreed, holding that her outside employment affected her “entitlement to insurance benefits or payments” and that she presented no evidence that the loss did not exceed $10,000.