A Washington man caught doing a roofing job while claiming he was too disabled to work must repay the state more than $25,000.
José Guadalupe Sanchez, 50, pleaded guilty in Pierce County Superior Court to third-degree theft. Judge James R. Orlando sentenced Sanchez to repay the Department of Labor & Industries $25,023 for wrongfully taking that amount in cash benefits while working and getting paid at the same time.
The judge also ordered Sanchez to serve five days behind bars, but converted the jail time to 40 hours of community service. Sanchez must follow the law for two years or risk going to jail.
Sanchez was originally injured on a construction job in late 2017, when he fell 16 feet from a ladder, resulting in multiple broken bones and a collapsed lung. L&I accepted his workers’ comp claim, covered his medical care and paid part of his lost wages.
Last March, however, L&I began investigating Sanchez when his employer at the time of the accident reported that he was working for a different construction company.
According to charging papers, investigators found that Sanchez had been working full time in construction from mid-June 2018 through March 2019 in Lakewood. At the same time, he was reportedly declaring to L&I that he couldn’t work because of his earlier injury, and led his medical providers to believe he wasn’t working.
Sanchez’s doctors told him he should not work and should not climb ladders. Yet investigators witnessed him working on a roof at a Tacoma apartment complex in March, charging papers said. They filmed Sanchez using a drill on the roof, climbing down a ladder and driving away from the worksite.
Sanchez later admitted to investigators he was working to make payments on his truck and support his parents.
L&I administers the state workers’ compensation insurance system. The department provides medical and partial wage-replacement coverage and vocational training to help workers who are injured on the job heal and return to work.
The Washington Attorney General’s Office prosecuted the case based on an L&I investigation.
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