Faking workers’ comp injuries costs Cowlitz County man $160K, 60 days home detention
TUMWATER — A Cowlitz County logger who faked injuries to collect workers’ compensation benefits must repay the state more than $160,000.
James Joseph Thomasson, 53, has also been ordered to serve 60 days in home detention, the maximum length under state sentencing guidelines.
Thurston County Superior Court Judge Allyson Zipp recently sentenced the Kalama man after he pleaded guilty to second-degree theft, a felony.
Thomasson, also known as Jim Thomasson, admitted stealing workers’ comp benefits from the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) from January 2018 to January 2020. He must repay L&I $163,566.
The department administers the state workers’ compensation system, which provides medical and vocational services, and partial wage replacement to help employees who are injured on the job recover.
L&I investigated the case, which was prosecuted by the Washington State Office of the Attorney General.
“The workers’ comp system is intended to help injured workers heal and get back to work — not line the pockets of cheaters,” said Celeste Monahan, assistant director of L&I’s Fraud Prevention and Labor Standards division.
“This case shows how seriously we take it when people fake injuries and steal money meant to help others.”
Injured in logging accidents
Thomasson was struck in the leg by a tree, suffering bruises and abrasions while working as a logger in the fall of 2006. A year later, he claimed he hurt his back while using a wedge to fell a tree in Shelton.
His medical provider told L&I that Thomasson could not work due to the workplace injuries, making him eligible to receive payments for part of his lost wages. In addition, Thomasson regularly submitted official forms stating he could not work because of the injuries, another requirement to receive the workers’ comp payments.
After receiving an anonymous tip, investigators caught Thomasson in 2019 performing numerous physical activities that were inconsistent with his medically prescribed restrictions.
For instance, they recorded him walking briskly uphill while talking on a cell phone, found a social media clip of him dancing by quickly moving his hips side-to-side, and saw him repeatedly lift a heavy tool above his head.
At times during the same period, it appeared that when he thought he was under surveillance he would walk slowly and limp, especially at medical appointments.
In early 2020, L&I investigators showed surveillance videos to his medical provider. The provider then determined Thomasson was intentionally misrepresenting his physical capabilities and had actually been able to work in March 2016, court papers said.
The provider concluded that Thomasson had “engaged in well-executed intentional underperformance” of his abilities.
At Thomasson’s recent court hearing, Judge Zipp granted his request to start home detention up to 90 days after sentencing to be available for fire-season work this summer.
Debby Abe, L&I Public Affairs, 360-902-6043