Dental hygienist Shari Lee Kristiansen of Lynnwood, Wash., is facing a felony theft charge after she was caught working while receiving more than $81,000 in workers' compensation disability payments.
The Washington Attorney General’s Office is prosecuting the case based on an investigation by the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I), which administers the state workers’ compensation system. Her arraignment in King County Superior Court is scheduled for Nov. 3.
A routine comparison of L&I and state Employment Security Department records turned up the alleged double-dipping.
“We have checks in place to catch workers’ comp thieves,” said Elizabeth Smith, assistant director of L&I’s Fraud Prevention & Labor Standards. “If you’re even thinking of trying to scam the system that helps legitimately injured workers, forget about it!”
Lied to Doctors
Kristiansen filed a claim with L&I in March 2013, saying she injured her thumbs and hands while working as a dental hygienist for several dentists in King and Snohomish counties. However, according to the charging papers, she misrepresented her activities and the extent of her injuries to her physicians, who relied on her statements to tell L&I that she couldn’t work as a dental hygienist.
L&I provided benefits to Kristiansen, including cash payments to make up for part of her lost wages. To confirm she was eligible, Kristiansen repeatedly stated on official forms that she couldn’t work – and wasn’t working – because of the on-the-job injury.
But an L&I investigation later found she continued to work for various dentists from the time she was injured through May 2013, and then for 11 months starting in late October 2014, charging papers said.
In all, L&I paid nearly $57,000 in wage-replacement checks to Kristiansen, more than $19,000 for medical benefits and nearly $6,000 for vocational counseling.