Tweeting taunting fugitive scammer caught, authorities say

Wanda Lee Ann Podgurski, 60, in undated handout photo from San Diego County, Calif., District Attorney's office AP

SAN DIEGO A woman who fled after being convicted in an insurance and disability fraud scam, taunting San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis on Twitter before her capture in Mexico, pleaded not guilty Monday to a felony charge of failing to appear in court while on bail, reports CBS San Diego affiliate KFMB-TV.

Wanda Podgurski, 60, was ordered to stay behind bars without bail, the station says.

Podgurski was convicted in January of 29 felony counts related to the insurance and disability scam, in which she faked injuries and collected payments of more than $650,000 from insurance companies, KFMB adds.

Authorities said Podgurski traveled around the world at a time when she was supposedly disabled.

Podgurski -- who was out on $500,000 bail during her two-month trial -- failed to show up when the verdict was read in her case in January. She was sentenced in absentia last month to 20 years and four months in state prison, KFMB says.

She was arrested last week in Rosarito, Mexico, after posting a Twitter message saying "Catch me if you can" to Dumanis.

"I can't tell you at this time if that played any role in her apprehension," Deputy District Attorney Sherry Thompson said outside court Monday.

Podgurski faces an additional two years and eight months in prison if convicted of the latest charges.

Dumanis says Podgurski sent the taunting tweet "Catch me if you can" after skipping out in January while facing charges of insurance fraud.

Podgurski was captured on the Fourth of July in Rosarito Beach, a popular retirement spot for American expatriates only 15 miles south of San Diego.

Three weeks after her initial tweet on June 5, Podgurski's feed read, "Help find me before I con anyone else." Two other posts were links to stories about her vanishing act.

Podgurski's Twitter profile reads, "On the run possibly in Iran."

Her account follows 32 people and agencies, many of them FBI branches and other law enforcement authorities. Dumanis' office said the district attorney was the only one Podgurski followed while on the run.

The district attorney's office declined to say how authorities tracked down Podgurski, saying only that information from the Twitter account was turned over to its Computer and Technology Crime High-Tech Response Team, known by the acronym Catch.

Podgurski's attorney, Philip Kent Cohen, declined to comment.

The district attorney's office said Podgurski received $664,555 in disability payments, and that, while earning $44,000 a year as a clerk for Amtrak, she held six insurance policies with premiums that topped $60,000.

She made claims with all six insurance companies after reporting that she fell at her home in August 2006, prosecutors said. Private investigators working for the insurers reported seeing her walk stairs without assistance and drive to the store.

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