Authorities Seek 60-Year-Old Fugitive

Wanda Podgurski faces more than 30 years in prison

A special law enforcement task force is searching for a San Diego County fugitive.

The woman wanted by the U.S. Marshal’s office is 60-year-old Wanda Podgurski, who has lived throughout Southern California, including in Encinitas, Fallbrook and Leucadia.

On Thursday morning, a San Diego jury convicted Podgurski of insurance and tax fraud, and a total of 29 serious felonies.

The trial lasted two months, but the jury needed less than a day to weigh the evidence and reach a conclusion.

Jurors agreed with prosecutors, who said Podgurski faked bad-health and injuries, and used other tricks to defraud insurance companies, collecting $700,000 in fraudulent payments over more than a decade.

Prosecutors say the case was investigated by the state Department of Insurance, which then presented the evidence to the DA’s office for review and prosecution. Investigators from the Department of Insurance also assisted the DA’s office during Podgurski’s trial.

During the time she was allegedly disabled, prosecutors say Podgurski took several active vacations, including a 16-day tour of China and road trips to Key West, Eureka, CA and the Berkshires.

Podgurski was free on bail during the trial, which she attended every day.

But her lawyer said he couldn't reach Podgurski yesterday, when the jury informed Judge Howard Shore that it had reached verdicts in the case.

When Judge Shore asked Podgurski’s attorney where his client was this morning, he said he had tried to reach her “both (by) phone, as well as email, number of occasions throughout the afternoon and not had any return contact."

Podgurski faces more than 30 years in prison, plus the jury found her guilty of criminal enhancements, for stealing more than $500,0000.

"In this particular case, it can add as many as three more years in prison,” said Deputy District Attorney Jim Waters, assistant chief of the DA’s Insurance Fraud Division. She also faces more than $2 million in fines.

Waters says  insurance fraud cost California companies $15 billion a year, and that every taxpayer shares the cost, through increased insurance premiums and fees associated with the costs of fraud investigations.

At this morning’s hearing, Judge Shore revoked the bail bond that had secured Podgurski's release since her arrest.

That bond is secured by a house, owned by Podgurski’s boyfriend.

"The defendant in this case put up no money to set the bond, so she's out nothing," said Deputy District Attorney Waters.

A law enforcement task force, headed by the U.S. Marshall's office, is now searching for Podgurski.

NBC 7 San Diego tried to talk with her lawyer, Philip Kent Cohen, after today's hearing, but he declined to speak.

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