Conn. firefighter charged with worker's comp fraud

Video showed him doing remodeling work despite claiming a fireground injury left him unable to work

By Kimberly Wetzel
The Chronicle

COVENTRY, Conn. — A longtime firefighter is expected to appear in court later this month for allegations of unlawfully collecting workers' compensation benefits.

Anthony Skut, 57, of 145 Beebe Farms Road, Coventry, was arrested Thursday by inspectors from the Workers' Compensation Fraud Control Unit in the Office of the Chief State's Attorney for one count of fraudulent claim or receipt of benefits and one count of perjury.

Skut, who is a volunteer with the Coventry Volunteer Fire Association, was released on a promise to appear and is scheduled to appear in Norwich Superior Court April 28.

"I believe Tony to be an honorable man," said CVFA President Dennis Dittrich. "I'm surprised."

Dittrich said Skut has not only been an active member, but an "excellent" member.

The state Division of Criminal Justice stated in a release that Skut was injured at the scene of a December 2015 fire and, as a result, filed a worker's compensation claim saying he was "unable to work."

Skut injured his ankle at a house fire on Dec. 22 that completely destroyed a home located at 41 Edgewater Drive in Coventry.

According to the affidavit, Skut received $6,126 in workers' compensation benefits.

Following the injuries, Dittrich said Skut was placed on light duty.

"He hasn't been allowed to perform in emergency calls because you never know if you'll need extra strength," Dittrich said.

He said Skut has been allowed to view drills, as well as help complete paperwork.

According to the arrest warrant, surveillance showed Skut doing carpentry work for his R. A. S. Home Builders contracting business, despite his claimed disability.

When asked under oath regarding his activities, the warrant states Skut's answers were "found to be untruthful." "We had no idea this was happening," Dittrich said.

He said the department, while it's a volunteer fire company, has rules to address felony arrests and the department will be abiding by them as this case continues.

Dittrich said he is unsure how long Skut has served as a volunteer; however, he said he's "been a volunteer firefighter for a long time, and at another fire department before he moved into town."

The arrest comes after a complaint was filed by the Connecticut Interlocal Risk Management Agency, which provides workers'

compensation insurance coverage to the Town of Coventry -- including its volunteer firefighters.

Coventry Town Manager John Elsesser said the town's rates for CIRMA haven't increased for a number of years and town officials will need to "make sure only legitimate claims are being paid."

"We'll let the process move forward," Elsesser said. "Under the CVFA rules, it will likely require them to suspend Mr. Skut until a verdict or decision is made."

Members of the fire department have said Skut is "experienced, well trained and dependable" and hope people don't rush to judge him and to let due process take its course. They also said Skut is having a difficult year since his wife, Ruthann Skut, recently died in February after losing her battle with cancer. The case is expected to be prosecuted by the compensation fraud unit.


(c)2016 The Chronicle (Willimantic, Conn.)

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