SAN DIEGO - A woman who fled to Mexico after being convicted in a San Diego insurance and disability fraud scam was sentenced Tuesday to a nearly three-year prison term, to be served consecutively to the 20-year, four-month sentence she received in absentia for the fraud case.
Wanda Lee Ann Podgurski, 61, pleaded guilty Nov. 1 to failing to appear in court while on bail.
While on the lam for several months last year, prosecutors thought the defendant had taunted District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis on Twitter, posting "Catch me if you can."
But Deputy District Attorney Sherry Thompson-Taylor said Tuesday that her office received information that a person other than Podgurski had taken credit for the taunting "tweets."
Deputy Public Defender Selena Epley told Judge Eugenia Eyherabide that Podgurski had no prior record and lacked the technical skills to post the taunts online.
Epley – arguing for a consecutive sentence of eight months – said Podgurski had serious medical concerns, including a herniated disc in her spine, which would make life in prison "excruciating."
Thompson-Taylor told the judge that the two-year, eight-month consecutive sentence was warranted.
"This defendant decided that her freedom was more important than coming back to court," the prosecutor said.
A year ago, Podgurski was convicted of 29 felony counts related to faking injuries and collecting payments of more than $650,000 from insurance companies. Authorities said she used the money to travel around the world.
Podgurski was out of custody on $500,000 bail during her 2 1/2-month trial when she failed to show up to hear the verdict read. She was later arrested in Rosarito and returned to San Diego in July.