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Fraud charges follow heroic rescue of tree trimmers in Rogers

The rescue happened on March 21, 2018.
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After two tree trimmers were heroically rescued after being trapped in a freezing pond, one of them allegedly set about scamming the other.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Friday that his office has charged a Rogers couple with insurance fraud and theft by swindle in relation to a near-death accident on Mar. 21, 2018. 

Jerry Gould, 65, the owner of Gould's Tree Service in Rogers, and his wife, 62-year-old Lorraine Gould, who has the power to sign documents on behalf of the company, are accused of withholding workers' compensation that was earmarked for their injured employee. 

The accident happened Mar. 21, 2018, when Jerry Gould and employee Will Hamer were trimming trees in Rogers when the lift he was operating with a remote control slid down an icy hill and overturned into a partially frozen pond.

Gould and Hamer were trapped underneath the lift. While Gould was able to free himself, Hamer was trapped with water up to his nostrils. 

A firefighter quick to the scene held the man's head above water, with FOX 9 9 reporting that the firefighter and Hamer both suffered from hypothermia. As rescue efforts continued, Hamer slid deeper into the water, with the chief of police in Big Lake helping to keep his head from submerging. 

In all, Hamer was in the freezing water for one hour and seven minutes. 

The criminal complaint notes that Hamer had given first responders permission to amputate his arm, which was trapped under the heavy tree lift. Fortunately, it didn't come to it, although Fox 9 says doctors were about two minutes from making that difficult decision when Hamer was freed. 

Hamer suffered a hyperextended neck and had multiple surgeries on his pelvis, arm and shoulder, in addition to suffering from anxiety and post-traumatic stress. 

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The Hennepin County Attorney's Office accuses the Goulds of withholding workers' compensation by listing Hamer as a part-time employee when he was full time.

They also "intentionally lied" about his wages and hours worked, according to Freeman, who cited information from the Minnesota Commerce Fraud Bureau's investigation. 

The alleged deceit cost Hamer more than $4,000 over the four months following the incident. 

“This case is exhibit A on how cheating the government hurts real people,” Freeman said in a release.

"This worker suffered terribly from an accident on the job and originally received only half of what he should have because his employer lied on the forms to a state-backed insurance program. The Commerce Fraud Bureau agents did a great job getting to the bottom of this and we will prosecute the case vigorously.”

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