Q’orianka Kilcher, an actor who has appeared in “The New World” and “Yellowstone,” is facing criminal charges for allegedly collecting disability benefits even though she was able to work.
Kilcher has been charged with two felony counts of workers’ compensation fraud. She allegedly collected $96,838 in benefits after injuring her neck and shoulder during filming of “Dora and the Lost City of Gold.”
But investigators from the California Department of Insurance found that she was healthy enough to work on “Yellowstone” the following year, during a time that she claimed she was disabled, according to a news release issued by the department on Monday.
The department announced the charges Monday, though Kilcher was arraigned and pleaded not guilty on May 27. In a statement to Variety, her attorney denied the allegations and said that Kilcher “never intentionally accepted benefits that she did not believe she was entitled to.”
“As such, Ms. Kilcher will vigorously defend herself and asks that she be afforded the presumption of innocence both in and outside the courthouse,” said the attorney, Michael Becker.
Kilcher is best known for her portrayal of Pocahontas in “The New World,” the 2005 film directed by Terrence Malick. She also appeared in the title role of “Princess Kaiulani,” a 2009 film about the colonization of Hawaii; and played Kawillaka, an Inca princess, in the 2019 “Dora” film. She appeared in four episodes of “Yellowstone” during season three, which aired in 2020.
Kilcher allegedly hurt her neck and right shoulder while filming the “Dora” movie in October 2018. Her attorney said she was a passenger in a production vehicle when the injury occurred.
According to the Department of Insurance, she went to a doctor a few times afterward, but stopped getting treatment and did not respond to an inquiry from her employer’s insurance company.
Kilcher reached out to the insurer to seek treatment a year later, in October 2019, according to the department. She allegedly told the doctor who handled her claim that her neck pain had become so severe that she had been forced to turn down jobs, and that she had not worked for a year. She quickly began to receive temporary total disability benefits, the department stated.
Investigators later reviewed wage statements and found that Kilcher had worked on “Yellowstone” from July 2019 to October 2019 — just before seeking treatment. That job had ended just five days before Kilcher began collecting benefits, according to the department. The doctor later said that he would never have approved the payments had he known of her recent work history, the department alleged.
Kilcher’s attorney denied that she had ever been deceptive.
“Third party doctors verified her injury and entitlement to benefits,” Becker said in the statement. “Ms. Kilcher was at all times candid with her doctors and treatment providers.”
The attorney said that she also provided regular updates to her caseworker at the Division of Workers’ Compensation.
Christopher Hartman, a prosecutor with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, is handling the case. Kilcher’s next scheduled court date is Aug. 7.