So I have openly railed against copyright and trademark trolls using extortionate letters to extract unreasonable settlement amounts from folks accused of infringing on their intellectual property. In fact, I have a whole website devoted to the topic: www.extortionletterinfo.com. But Wednesday’s Newsday had a cover story about Long Island Railroad disability pension fraud that revealed perhaps the most outrageous extortion letter yet. This one comes from Uncle Sam, through his personal police squad- the FBI!
It seems the FBI recognizes that there is “rampant fraud” by LIRR workers who claim they are too hurt to work and then live off nice, fat, tax-free disability pensions fueled by the extortionate fees charged by their former employer, the LIRR. So rather than put more manpower and resources into this rampant fraud, here’s what they did. They made poster children out of about 20 of the worst offenders and then they sent letters offering a deal to all others: Come in and admit your fraud and we will not look to recoup your back pension benefits, just cut you off from future benefits. But if you do not come forward and reveal your fraud and we catch you later, then we will seek reimbursement for back earnings and cut off future benefits as well.
Forget that the FBI has just told folks they suspect to be criminals that they can keep their ill gotten gains as long as they come forward, that’s a whole other issue. The problem I have is not that they sent this letter to suspected cheats, its that they sent it to ALL persons receiving disability benefits from the LIRR.
Any disability recipient – even those legitimately hurt- will be quaking in his boots when he reads this. Was that all that physical therapy really necessary? Did I perhaps exaggerate how much pain I’m in a little bit? Did I try hard enough to see if the LIRR had a job for me to do with my limitations? The threat of an FBI investigation may make some folks who have done nothing wrong come forward “just to be on the safe side” and find themselves losing their rightful benefits.
We should expect the government to act only upon reasonable suspicion and probable cause. There is no justification for scaring the pants off some disabled person who may question their chiropractor’s credentials and decide they’d rather rough it in the future than face Federal prison and bankruptcy.
Let’s leave the mass mailing of threats to the IP trolls of the world.