AUSTIN, Texas — The owner and manager of the popular East Austin restaurant La Barbecue have been indicted on workers' compensation fraud charges.
La Barbecue owner LeAnn Mueller and manager Allison Clem, who is also Mueller's wife, have been ordered to appear in Travis County district court in late September, according to the Texas Department of Insurance.
Those charges go back to a 2016 incident when an employee was severely injured while using a piece of kitchen equipment. Both Clem and Mueller found out about the injury that day. Four days later, Clem contacted an insurance company to get workers' compensation coverage, per the Department of Insurance.
That was something the restaurant had been without since November 2014, the Department of Insurance reported.
Clem did not tell the agent about the employee's injuries and asked that the policy be backdated to July 1, 2016, three weeks before the employee was hurt, per an investigation by the Fraud Unit of the Texas Department of Insurance.
Muller submitted a signed application, which stated the restaurant had no previous losses. The policy was approved by Travelers Casualty Insurance Company of America.
When Travelers received the claim for the employee's injury, they approved the claim and paid the injured employee more than $350,000 in medical and indemnity benefits. The Department of Insurance said the insurance company is also responsible for the lifetime care of the injured employee.
If Mueller and Clem are found guilty, they could be ordered to pay restitution plus double the amount the insurance company has already paid in benefits to the injured worker.
Attorney Brian Roark, who is representing the couple, released the following statement concerning the charges:
“In July of 2016, an employee of la Barbecue was injured on the job. la Barbecue obtained an insurance policy which was backdated in order to have the employee’s injury covered by insurance. It is perfectly legal to obtain a backdated policy in Texas. la Barbecue then filed the claim for the injury. The insurance company determined early on that they didn’t believe they should have to pay for the claim yet continued to pay for it anyway. Regardless of the insurance company’s determination, la Barbecue, LeAnn Mueller and Alison Clem believed they were acting in good faith at all times when they signed the application that had been provided to them by the insurance agent. All the monies paid for the employee were paid to the employee or directly for his medical expenses and not to la Barbecue, LeAnn Mueller or Alison Clem. We believe once a jury hears the facts, that la Barbecue, LeAnn Mueller and Alison Clem will be exonerated.”
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