Man claims bar fight injury was at work. Now he's charged with workers' comp fraud.
Text message to a friend: “Now L&I will cover it”
YELM — A Thurston County man accused of trying to pass off a bar fight injury as a workplace accident now faces a felony theft charge.
Among investigators’ evidence: a texted photo of the defendant raising his bandaged hand along with the message, “Now L&I will cover it.”
Chuck Wayne Riccio, 38, of Yelm, has been charged with second-degree theft for allegedly filing a fraudulent workers’ compensation claim to get medical coverage. His arraignment is scheduled for Friday, Jan. 3, in Thurston County Superior Court.
The Washington Attorney General’s Office is prosecuting the case based on an investigation by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I).
“It’s truly outrageous when someone blatantly lies and files a fake claim to try to game the workers’ comp system,” said Chris Bowe, assistant director for Fraud Prevention & Labor Standards. “We’re here to help injured workers who are legitimately injured on the job so they can recover and return to work.”
Acquaintance tips off L&I
Riccio filed an L&I claim in mid-October 2018, saying he hurt his right hand at his workplace, according to charging papers. Riccio, who had just started a job at a bathware manufacturer, said he was pulling apart a shower unit when his hand struck the mold housing the unit.
However, according to charging papers, about seven weeks later someone who knew Riccio told L&I that the injury actually happened in late August 2018 during a barroom brawl in Yelm.
The person provided text messages that Riccio sent from a clinic about the same time he filed the L&I claim. He texted that his hand still hurt from the fight, but that he told the clinic “i kinda said it happened at work.”
Later that day, he texted photos of an L&I form and himself holding up his bandaged hand and the words “Now L&I will cover it.”
Man who was punched
L&I launched an investigation, and interviewed a man who said he was punched by Riccio in the bar fight. In addition, one of Riccio’s co-workers provided Facebook posts of Riccio talking about fighting the man.
Staff at Riccio’s new job also disputed he was injured at work, charging papers said. One said he couldn’t have injured himself the way he described. A supervisor said Riccio told him he was injured a week earlier than the date Riccio reported to L&I.
Riccio received more than $1,000 in L&I medical benefits to treat his hand, which was fractured. The department rejected his claim on Dec. 7 as a result of the fraud investigation.
L&I fraud hotline
L&I administers the state workers’ compensation insurance system, which helps injured workers heal and return to work. If you suspect someone is cheating the workers’ comp system, contact L&I's Fraud division (Lni.wa.gov/Fraud) or call 1-888-811-5974.
Debby Abe, L&I Public Affairs, 360-902-6043