Wash. Man Sentenced for Defrauding L&I in Workers’ Comp Scam

September 9, 2005

Tracy Lee Owens of Sedro Woolley, Wash., has been sentenced to state prison for illegally collecting workers’ compensation wage-replacement benefits while working at another job.

Owens, 42, was caught by Department of Labor and Industries’ investigators, who discovered his name while routinely cross-checking records of injured workers collecting L&I benefits with employment records from the Department of Employment Security. L&I’s investigation led to the Skagit County Prosecutor filing charges against Owens, who pled guilty to two counts of first degree theft. He was sentenced in mid-August to 14 months in prison on each of the counts.

In addition to his prison sentence, which he is serving at the state’s Shelton Correctional Center, Owens was ordered to repay L&I nearly $11,000 he illegally collected in benefits plus a penalty of over $5,000.

“I want to thank Skagit County prosecutors for taking on this case and helping us maintain the integrity of the workers’ compensation system,” said Carl Hammersburg, manager of L&I’s Fraud Prevention and Compliance Program. “This is a perfect example of state agencies working together to detect fraud, and local prosecutors pitching in to ensure that fraud and theft don’t go unpunished.”

Owens was working as a truck driver in 2002 when he filed a workplace injury claim. Eventually he filed four claims. When L&I discovered that he was continuing to work while collecting benefits, the agency issued fraud orders in an attempt to recover the money it had paid to him. When that didn’t produce results, L&I asked the Skagit County prosecutor to file criminal charges.

Labor and Industries manages the state’s workers’ compensation system, which provides industrial insurance coverage for about 165,000 employers and 2 million workers. In addition to providing benefits to injured workers, the system protects employers from the high cost of claims that can last a lifetime, and from tort lawsuits that could result from workplace injuries.

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