Lumberjack fakes injuries to raise cash: WA Agency

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A logger must repay more than $160,000 and serve 60 days of house arrest after being charged with faking injuries to receive workers’ compensation, Washington officials said on July 20, 2022.

A lumberjack caught faking injuries to collect workers’ compensation was seen exercising and dancing, Washington officials said.

The 53-year-old was sentenced to 60 days of house arrest and must repay the $163,566 he collected in benefits from January 2018 to January 2020, the state Department of Labor and Industries said. Washington in a July 20 press release.

The man, from Kalama, said he injured his leg in 2006 after being hit by a tree, the agency said. Then, a year later, he said he injured his back while “using a wedge to chop down a tree,” the department said.

His doctor told the department that he could not work because of these injuries and therefore was entitled to benefits.

The department said the man routinely submitted forms saying he couldn’t work because of the injuries.

But anonymous videos submitted to the agency showed the man walking “quickly” uphill in 2019. A social media video taken the same year showed him dancing while moving his hips from side to side.

These movements were “inconsistent with his medically prescribed restrictions”, the agency said.

Meanwhile, he is accused of limping and walking slowly during medical appointments or when he thought he was under surveillance, officials said.

Once his doctor reviewed the videos, he said he was able to walk in March 2016.

“The workers’ compensation system is intended to help injured workers heal and get back to work, not to line the pockets of cheaters,” said Celeste Monahan, associate director of the fraud prevention division and of the department’s labor standards, in the press release.

Helena Wegner is a McClatchy Live National Reporter covering Washington State and the Western Region. She holds a journalism degree from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. She is based in Phoenix.

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