L&I investigators ask for the public’s help finding workers’ comp fraud
L&I investigators ask for public's...
KENNEWICK, Wash. — The Department of Labor & Industries is responsible for the safety of Washington state’s 2.5 million workers. The program acts as one of the largest insurance companies in the country.
They have almost 50 investigators relying on tips from the public to help find people abusing the workers’ compensation system.
“Ninety percent of the people out here are doing it right, they’re trying to follow the rules, but then there’s that percentage of people who are just taking advantage of the system,” said L&I investigator Randy Littlefield.
Littlefield has been protecting the state of Washington for more than 30 years, starting at the Washington State Patrol in 1984.
He said seeing someone lie and get L&I benefits is insulting to people working hard to take care of their families.
“This insurance protects people when they’re hurt at work. It really bothers me that there’s people that are willing to intentionally abuse that, take advantage of it, collect money they’re not entitled to and cause the rates to go up for everybody else,” said Littlefield.
One of the most popular local cases involved a BMX rider in 2012. Tony Perry told L&I he was too injured to work and that he hurt his ribs because of a work-related injury.
But investigators caught Perry racing bikes at the Columbia Basin BMX track in Richland and found the photo below on his Facebook page, proving he hurt himself during a race.
“The brashness sometimes of people is what I think still amazes me more than the lie,” said Littlefield.
Perry pleaded guilty to two counts of third-degree theft, was sentenced to 364 days in jail, and was ordered to pay back $14,422 to L&I.
Littlefield said the most egregious cases are multifilers who are seeking drugs.
In the 2016 fiscal year (July 2015 – June 2016) 48 investigators looked into 3,859 injured worker investigations. 93 of those were fraud investigations and 5 referrals resulted in criminal charges.
The annual cost of those investigations was $4.4 million.
“We have the ability to actually get search warrants, to obtain criminal history information, to access law enforcement case files and to actually write probable cause statement and have people charged with a crime,” said Littlefield.
He wants the public to know his team is out there and they take their jobs seriously.
“I want everybody to think every black SUV that goes by them is watching them if they’re out there cheating the system, we’re watching you,” said Littlefield.