An investigation by the state of Washington’s Department of Labor & Industry has resulted in a four-and- a-half month jail sentence for a Kettle Falls woman who admitted to stealing more than $30,000 in workers’ compensation benefits.
Heather L. Payne, 22, was sentenced in Thurston County Superior Court on Jan. 31. Paine used forged signatures to receive $30,945 in workers’ compensation benefits. As part of the sentencing she agreed to reimburse L&I for the stolen funds.
Until his death in 2001, Payne’s father received an L&I pension due to a workplace injury that left him permanently disabled. Because she was a minor at the time, Payne was awarded survivor benefits.
When she turned 18, Payne was entitled to continued support as long as she remained a full-time student. L&I requires the recipients of these benefits to regularly submit paperwork verifying they are still in school.
In October 2010, L&I staff noticed inconsistencies in the forms Payne submitted. An investigation revealed that she had dropped out of school in early 2010. In an interview, she admitted to submitting a forged signature in order to continue receiving the pension benefits.