Thurston County man who faked on-the-job injury pleads guilty in workers' comp scam
Text message to a friend: "Now L&I will cover it"
Olympia — A Thurston County man who tried to pass off a barroom brawl injury as a workplace accident has pleaded guilty to stealing state workers’ compensation insurance benefits.
Chuck Wayne Riccio, 40, of Yelm, pleaded guilty Tuesday to third-degree theft, a gross misdemeanor offense. Thurston County Superior Court Judge Sharonda Amamilo ordered Riccio to pay court costs and reimburse L&I for his medical care.
The case resulted from a Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) investigation.
Acquaintance tips off L&I
Riccio filed an L&I claim in October 2018, stating he injured his right hand at his new job at a bathtub and shower manufacturer. But someone who knew Riccio told L&I he actually hurt his hand in a bar fight in Yelm in August 2018, according to charging papers.
The acquaintance provided investigators with a text Riccio sent when he was at a clinic around the same time he filed the L&I claim. He texted that his hand 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."
Co-workers dispute workplace injury
"This was a flagrant example of someone trying to cheat the workers' compensation system," said Chris Bowe, L&I's assistant director of Fraud Prevention and Labor Standards.
"We take every fraud case seriously, and we take action when we catch cheaters."
L&I investigators also interviewed several of Riccio's co-workers, who disputed he was injured at work, and a man who said he was punched by Riccio in the Yelm bar fight.
The Washington State Attorney General's Office prosecuted the case based on L&I's investigation. If Riccio is not convicted of any other crimes and follows other conditions of his sentence for one year, he can ask the court to allow him to change his plea and to dismiss the case.
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