While Florida investigators were preparing for David Brownell’s upcoming insurance fraud trial, he was in the hospital fighting what would be his last battle with the illness he has sustained since 1995. In that year he filed a workers’ comp claim, stating that working at Glades Correctional Institution had exposed him to rat feces and caused breathing problems. He had originally been diagnosed with an uncommon type of pneumonia, and in the last few months of his life the doctors said he had scarring of the lungs. He was placed on a transplant list just two months before his trial was scheduled, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
The Florida Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud said that he misrepresented his physical abilities, citing video surveillance taken over the past few years that showed he was not entirely oxygen-dependent. They claim that he went to the movies, concerts, drove a car and played in a band. They also claim that he smoked cigarettes but his wife, Candace Brownell, says that is an outright lie.
She did confess that he occasionally went out to dinner, played a guitar and overall tried to enjoy his life.
“We didn’t realize they just expected you to lay in bed and die,” she said.
The problem, authorities say, is in the false details he told his doctor and not the overall diagnosis. He told his doctors he needed oxygen at all times, and obviously he was not always using his tank.
“The investigation was never about whether he was ill or not, but rather the contrast between how he was representing his physical limitations to doctors and what he was actually capable of doing,” a statement from the Division of Insurance Fraud reads.
His wife claims that Brownell never intended to defraud anyone, and any discrepancies were due to confusion or effects of his medication. Are the authorities upset that the medicine did what it was supposed to do and made him feel better, allowing him to enjoy a nice night out? It wasn’t like the man was jumping out of airplanes or bull-riding! His doctors had placed him on the transplant list in early October and he died 10 days later on October 16 at the age of 48.
“He has a nerve stimulator in his back, a port installed in his chest, a feeding tube hanging out of his stomach,” Candace Brownell said.
Not symptoms that seem easy to fake. His widow is obviously quite upset with the charges and the way that she claims the authorities are skewing the video evidence to make his situation appear fraudulent. She also says that they believe he was using the illness as a “get-rich” scheme, when in reality the money he received went towards medical bills as it was intended to.
“They edited the tapes and only showed ones of him without oxygen,” she said. “Where’s all the videotape of him with oxygen or throwing up in the front yard because he couldn’t quite make it home-or all the trips to the hospital?”
He faced a sentence of up to 30 years in prison, though he never made it to his trial. We’re all about catching fraud and exposing those that try to cheat the system, but a man who spent the last three months of his life in a hospital bed doesn’t seem like someone trying to pull one over on authorities.