A married couple working at their son’s Vancouver, Wash., auto repair shop who claimed to be hurt at the shop and received workers’ compensation benefits for their injuries are now both charged with stealing those benefits from the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries.
Charges accuse Jeffrey Bart Pierson, 61, of stealing more than $116,000 in workers’ comp insurance benefits over about two years. Charges also say Karen S. Pierson, 62, stole more than $64,000 in benefits over about 15 months. Both are slated for arraignment on one count each of first-degree felony theft on Tuesday in Thurston County Superior Court.
L&I investigators reportedly recorded more than 100 video clips of the defendants working at My Dad’s Automotive & Exhaust during the same time the couple regularly stated on official forms that they weren’t working because of injuries they suffered on the job.
Jeffrey Pierson injured his back when moving equipment at the shop in June 2018. A year later, Karen Pierson was climbing stairs when she injured her neck, knee, and arm while working there. Their medical providers determined they couldn’t work because of the workplace injuries, making them eligible to receive payments to replace part of their wages.
An L&I investigator presented the surveillance videos of the defendants to separate panels of independent medical examiners, which determined that Karen Pierson should have been able to return to work on July 3, 2019, the day she claimed she was injured, and that Jeffrey Pierson should have been able to return to work in August 2018, about five weeks after his injury.
L&I began investigating Jeffrey Pierson after receiving an anonymous tip in February 2020 that he was continuing to work.
In nearly 90 videos from March to October 2020, Pierson was reportedly filmed cutting exhaust pipes, lifting a garbage can over his head, working under vehicles on an overhead lift, and doing a variety of other job tasks, according to charging papers.
Meanwhile, an L&I staff referral prompted the investigation of Karen Pierson around the same time as that of her husband. My Dad’s Automotive had been late paying its workers’ comp insurance premiums for several years, according to charging documents.
The L&I revenue agent assigned to collect the past-due premiums discovered that while he was corresponding with Karen Pierson about the business, she was claiming to another part of L&I she was too injured to work. Investigators recorded nearly 60 videos and photos of her working at the shop between March and December 2020.
On Oct. 21, 2020, two L&I investigators visited My Dad’s Automotive to ask why the shop reported to L&I that Jeffrey Pierson was earning $5,000 the month he was injured while reporting to another state agency that he was earning $2,000 a month before the injury, according to charging papers.
Upon arrival, they reportedly saw Jeffrey Pierson was working in a service bay and Karen Pierson working in the office, charging papers said.
The Washington State Office of the Attorney General is prosecuting the case based on the L&I investigation.
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