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One year behind bars for Spokane man in $76,000 workers' comp scam

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July 21, 2015

Spokane, Wash. – The manager of a Spokane used car dealership must serve a year in jail for stealing more than $76,000 in disability benefits from the state.

Gary Bruce Farnworth II, 48, was caught running the dealership while telling the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) he couldn't work because of an on-the-job injury.

A jury convicted Farnworth of two felony counts of first-degree theft after an eight-day trial last month. The jury also found the crimes were a "major economic offense." That finding allowed Spokane County Superior Court Judge Annette Plese to order a sentence beyond the standard two to six months for his crimes on Monday.

Judge Plese also ordered Farnworth to pay back the $76,092 in workers' compensation benefits to L&I, plus $800 in court fees.

The Washington Attorney General's office prosecuted the case based on an L&I undercover investigation.

Anonymous tip

L&I launched the investigation based on an anonymous tip.

"This case shows how important it is for people to let us know if they suspect someone is defrauding the workers' comp system," said Annette Taylor, deputy assistant director of L&I Fraud Prevention & Labor Standards. "The system is intended to help injured workers recover from their injuries and get back to work, not to support cheaters as in this case."

The public can report fraud at www.Lni.wa.gov/Fraud or call 1-888-811-5974.

Undercover video

The L&I investigation determined that Farnworth was working at a used car dealership in Spokane from 2010 through 2012 – all while signing official L&I documents certifying he was not working due to a workplace injury.

Investigators photographed and shot video of Farnworth helping customers, opening heavy security gates, replacing a car battery and doing other work in 2012. He was even filmed showing cars to an undercover investigator and answering questions about their price and condition.

Farnworth signature

Investigators found dozens of Department of Licensing vehicle sales records with Farnworth's signature and notations listing him as general manager, manager or clerk.

After the investigator identified himself to the business owner, Farnworth said he was just helping out at his friend's business.

Misrepresenting medical condition

Farnworth began receiving L&I benefits when he injured his lower back in September 2007 while working at a steel company. Based on the severity of the workplace injury, doctors treating Farnworth certified him to receive wage-replacement checks from L&I.

But after seeing investigative video and photos of Farnworth at work, one of Farnworth's doctors wrote that Farnworth misrepresented his medical condition and could have returned to work in February 2010.

A surveillance video clip is available to media by contacting L&I Communications.

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For media information: Debby Abe, L&I Public Affairs, debby.abe@Lni.wa.gov, (360) 902-6043

Connect with L&I: Facebook (facebook.com/laborandindustries) and Twitter (twitter.com/lniwa)

Broadcast version:
The manager of a Spokane used car dealership must serve a year behind bars for stealing more than $76,000 in disability benefits from the state.

Gary Bruce Farnworth II was caught running the dealership while telling the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) he couldn't work because of an on-the-job injury. A Spokane County Superior Court judge also ordered Farnworth to pay back $76,092 in workers' compensation benefits.

After an anonymous tip, L&I investigators photographed and shot video of Farnworth opening heavy security gates, replacing a car battery and doing other work while he was receiving workers' comp payments in 2012.

A jury convicted Farnworth of two felony counts of first-degree theft after an eight-day trial last month.

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