Owner of adult family home faces felony charge in $60K workers’ comp scam

July 11, 2024

SPOKANE — A Spokane woman who ran an adult family home while claiming she was too injured to work faces a felony charge in a $60,000 workers’ compensation fraud case.

Serah Kamau, 52, has pleaded not guilty in Spokane County Superior Court to one count of first-degree theft. In a hearing last week, the court set Kamau’s trial for Sept. 23, 2024.

Charging papers allege Kamau stole more than $60,000 in wage-replacement payments from the state fund that supports Washingtonians who really are too injured to work.

Kamau operated her business, Brookhouse Adult Family Home, for 15 months in 2021 and 2022 while still collecting wage-replacement benefits from the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I).

“Whether you own a business or are an employee, individuals receiving workers’ compensation benefits must disclose any work they’re doing while collecting benefits,” said Celeste Monahan, assistant director of L&I’s Fraud Prevention & Labor Standards division. “It’s not just the right thing to do, it’s a legal obligation.

“Those who work and provide false information will be held accountable,” Monahan said.
An L&I investigation led to the charge. The Washington State Office of the Attorney General is prosecuting the case.

L&I, which oversees the state workers’ compensation system, helps workers injured on the job heal and get back to work.  

Kamau has repaid L&I $68,878 for the wrongly obtained benefits plus a $34,439 penalty under an earlier administrative order.

Injured while working at state psychiatric hospital near Spokane

Kamau injured her right shoulder while working with patients as a licensed practical nurse at Eastern State Hospital in early 2021. Several months later she filed an L&I injury claim, and stopped working at the hospital because of the injury.

In June 2021, she began receiving payments to replace part of her lost wages. In one of the requirements to receive the benefits, her physician certified that Kamau’s on-the-job injury was so severe she could not work, according to charging papers.

In October 2022, an L&I claims manager asked investigators to take a closer look at Kamau after she declined to accept a light-duty position at the state hospital; Kamau said she couldn’t drive her vehicle to work because it had a manual transmission.

Defendant held state contracts to care for mentally disabled adults

The investigation included checking records from multiple state departments, revealing that Kamau was operating an adult family care facility out of her own home in Spokane.

Brookhouse Adult Family Home provided 24-hour care for clients with dementia and mental disabilities through contracts Kamau signed with the state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), charging papers said.

About a week after filing her L&I injury claim in June 2021, Kamau signed the first of three DSHS contracts to care for clients at Brookhouse.

She billed DSHS for in-home, client care services from late September 2021 through December 2022. During the same period, she received wage-replacement payments and signed L&I documents confirming her on-the-job injury prevented her from working, charging papers said.

Yet Kamau told an L&I workers’ compensation auditor that she was doing all the home-care work herself, and was not employing any workers, charging papers said.

Doctor now says she wouldn’t have approved wage-replacement payments

When presented with the investigation findings last summer, Kamau’s physician said she did not know her patient was operating an adult family home. Had she known that in September 2021, the doctor said she would not have determined Kamau was entitled to wage-replacement benefits, charging papers said.

Kamau, who no longer works for Eastern State Hospital, still has a contract with DSHS to provide services through Brookhouse Adult Family Home, according to a DSHS spokesperson. However, the criminal charge is triggering a DSHS investigation that may disqualify her from being a provider.

For media information:

Debby Abe, L&I Public Affairs, 360-902-6043

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