Thinking of taking advantage of the pandemic and pulling a sickie? Maybe think again. If you tell your employer you have COVID-19 when you don’t, it could leave you with a criminal record, a hefty fine and possibly prison time.
A criminal complaint in Atlanta, Georgia, claims that 34-year-old Santwon Antonio Davis committed wire fraud in trying to convince his employer he had the virus and that it forced the unnamed Fortune 500 company to shut down for cleaning. That cost the business $100,000, according to prosecutors.
According to the complaint filed by an FBI agent, Davis told his employer that his mother, with whom he lived, had been exposed to COVID-19 and so went home to check on her. He later claimed he’d been exposed too and, after he and his mother had been tested, they’d both received positive results, prosecutors said.
The company asked him for a copy of the results, which he never sent, though he did pass along a “work/school excuse letter,” which indicated Davis was admitted to Wellstar Atlanta Medical Center Hospital South on March 20. The letter, sent from his iCloud account, also said Davis should quarantine for 14 days and avoid all contact with people if possible, though didn’t mention any COVID-19 results, prosecutors said.
The company’s HR department suspected the letter could’ve been faked – one telltale sign being that it stated Davis was discharged on November 10, 2019. They then called Wellstar Atlanta Medical Center Hospital South, where a nurse said the facility was not conducting COVID-19 tests. It later transpired Davis had never been admitted to the hospital, according to the complaint.
Despite that, on March 23, the company closed the plant where Davis worked for cleaning and quarantined four employees who’d been in close contact with the accused, costing the business in excess of $100,000, prosecutors said.
“The defendant caused unnecessary economic loss to his employer and distress to his coworkers and their families,” said U.S. attorney Byung J. Pak. “We will take quick action through the Georgia COVID-19 Task Force to put a stop to criminals preying on Georgia companies and the public with Coronavirus-related fraud schemes.”
Davis now faces a possible trial for wire fraud. His legal representation hadn’t responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.
Not only is lying about having COVID-19 morally dubious, it’s clearly legally questionable too. Sick days are for the truly sick.