Two Mount Vernon-area interpreters, who were the Department of Labor & Industries’ top billers for mileage, face felony theft charges alleging they overbilled the state by thousands of dollars.
Gloria Mendoza Garcia, 46, and her daughter, Gloria Del Rocio Gonzalez, 31, each face one count of first-degree theft. The Washington Attorney General’s office filed the charges in Thurston County Superior Court, where the women pleaded not guilty. Their cases were set for trial on June 9.
The women lived in separate homes and ran separate businesses in the Mount Vernon area, interpreting for Spanish-speaking injured workers at medical appointments. L&I pays for interpretation and interpreters’ mileage as part of worker injury claims.
According to charging papers, Mendoza Garcia claimed in her mileage bills that she started her trips from the address of a Seattle sports clinic. Though she told L&I investigators she had appointments there, clinic staff told investigators they didn’t recognize her.
Mendoza Garcia often billed L&I for more than 500 miles — and sometimes more than 800 miles — in the same day, charging papers said. On Oct. 17, 2012, for instance, she claimed to make five separate roundtrips from Seattle to Burlington, Mount Vernon and Sedro Wooley — trips that an investigator found would have been impossible to make in the hours she claimed.
In her mileage bills to L&I, Del Rocio Gonzalez claimed to start her trips from Marysville, more than 30 miles away from her home, charging papers said. She told investigators that the Marysville address, where she lived four years earlier, was on a billing template in her iPad, and she never changed it.
Charging papers allege Mendoza Garcia fraudulently received more than $28,000 from March 2012 through February 2013. Her daughter is accused of fraudulently receiving more than $16,000 during that period.
L&I fraud investigators discovered the irregularities while checking to see which interpreters were billing the agency the most for mileage in 2012. Garcia was at the top of the list, billing a total of $38,012. Her daughter was second, billing $24,953.
L&I aggressively investigates fraud involving the workers’ compensation system. In 2013, nearly half of all investigations into L&I’s service providers focused on interpreters.
“If you commit fraud, the department views it as a harmful act against not only the department and injured workers, but also the taxpayers, and we will prosecute it as such,” said Annette Taylor, L&I’s chief of investigations and the provider fraud unit.
Source: Washington State Department of Labor & Industries
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