Fake massage schemer lands in jail

A Red Deer woman has been sentenced to four months in jail for her role in a scheme that defrauded Alberta Blue Cross of $17,000.

A Red Deer woman has been sentenced to four months in jail for her role in a scheme that defrauded Alberta Blue Cross of $17,000.

In April, Donna Liza Nast, 41, pleaded guilty to one count of fraud over $5,000 and was sentenced on Friday in Red Deer provincial court.

The insurance scam involved Nast, a Red Deer massage therapist, and an alleged co-conspirator.

The Crown alleges that the co-conspirator, a woman employed at Olymel, used fraudulent forms to claim money for massages that never happened. Claims were submitted between Jan. 1, 2007, and Jan. 30, 2010.

Judge Jim Hunter also imposed 18 months of probation and Nast must pay restitution of $14,158 to the insurance company before the end of her probation.

“Here the gravity of the offence is really high. The corporation serves Albertans. They keep our health-care costs low. Fraud such as this drives costs up,” Hunter said during Friday’s sentencing.

He said the sentence also reflected the fact that Nast got involved in the scheme shortly after being convicted of a similar offence and completing probation.

“You started all over and you did so for no other reason than personal gain.”

He said while her guilty plea did save the court time and resources for what would have been a lengthy and complicated trial, the fraud required a lot of planning.

“This was a relatively sophisticated fraud.”

Court previously heard that the scheme involved employees at Olymel who received false massage receipts to file false claims.

Olymel employees in Red Deer receive a benefit package that includes $500 per year for massages. Nast created false receipts under the name of real massage therapists and the Crown alleges she submitted them to her co-accused, before they were sent to Alberta Blue Cross for reimbursement.

Employees kept 40 per cent of the proceeds, court was told, while those running the scam split the remaining 60 per cent.

An internal audit by Alberta Blue Cross showed 139 employees made false claims. However, RCMP only interviewed 44 employees. As a result, Crown prosecutors are only able to prove the allegations for the smaller number of employee claims.

Crown prosecutor Carolyn Ayre, who recommended a four-month jail sentence for Nast, said 30 witnesses would have been required for trial.

Defence counsel Patty MacNaughton recommended a 90-day jail sentence for her client.

Nast told the court she was sorry for what she did to the trusted company and apologized to her family and the court.

Noralyn Zadrozny, 42, of Red Deer has pleaded not guilty to fraud over $5,000 and using a forged document. She will stand trial from Nov. 7 to 18, 2016, in Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench.

szielinski@bprda.wpengine.com

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