Insurance fugitive Tweets self back to jailBy James Quiggle
January 13, 2014
On the run, convicted insurance thief Wanda Lee Podgurski taunted law enforcement with cheeky Twitter feeds.
“Catch me if you can,” she Tweeted after bolting from her disability-fraud trial.
Podgurski was an Amtrak clerk in the San Diego-area. She’d been handed 20 years in absentia for stealing more than $660,000 worth of insurance money.
Podgurski had lied that she was disabled after slipping and falling down the stairs at home. Her back, hip and leg were badly hurt, she said. Podgurski needed an in-home caregiver, she lied to the insurers.
She also collected another $261,000 for a false insurance claim involving supposedly stolen jewelry.
All in all, a big-dollar score for a humble Amtrak clerk making $44,000 a year.
The insurance windfall gave her a queenly lifestyle. Far from lying painfully on a couch at home, Podgurski globe-hopped in style. She cavorted in China, the Dominican Republic, New York, Seattle, Fort Lauderdale, Key West, the Berkshires and other locales.
But suspicious investigators tailed Podgurski when she was home. She walked up and down stairs, ran errands and drive to the grocery store with apparent ease. They also found out about her vacations.
Podgurski soon was convicted. The sentencing date then was arranged, but she never showed up. She’d bolted, opting for a life on the run. The irate court handed her those 20 years in federal prison, in absentia.
Podgurski eluded a manhunt for months. Having too much fun on the lam, she soon got sloppy. She taunted law enforcement with increasingly brazen Tweets.
“On the run possibly in Iran” her Twitter profile read.
Podgurski also made a point of dissing San Diego County DA Bonnie Dumanis.
“Help find me before I con anyone else,” she digitally thumbed her nose, attaching links to news articles about her escape.
“Hmmmm what to eat in jail this morning? Do you have organic coffee?”“Catch me if you can,” she also Tweeted. (@wanda_podgurski)
Dumanis obliged, assigning a tech-savvy unit to track her down. Authorities nabbed Podgurski at a luxury community in Mexico. She lived just 15 miles from San Diego — virtually in the shadow of Dumanis’ office.
Podgurski’s next vacation will be a long one — 20 years. But her Twitter streams continued in jail. At first she appeared contrite.
“for justice sake, I'm glad you caught me.”
“How dumb am I? Who would go to Mexico. So close yet not far at all. — Wanda Podgurski”
Podgurski returned to cheeky Tweets one morning. “Hmmmm what to eat in jail this morning? Do you have organic coffee?”
But prosecutor Dumanis had the last word, and the only word that counted.
“The defendant in this case was brazen in both the large-scale fraud she committed and the way she mocked the criminal justice system,” Dumanis said.
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