Washington Worker Caught Faking Injury

May 2, 2019
Anonymous tip leads to charges for Shelby, Wash. man.

The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries is charging a Shelby, Wash. man for collecting workers' compensation benefits while harvesting oysters.

Jose Cruz Contreras Alvarez has been charged with felony first-degree theft for performing commercial shellfish work despite allegedly being unable to work.

According to state investigators, the 39-year-old worker stole more than $70,000 in medical and vocational benefits and more than $32,000 in payments between late 2016 and July 2017.

During that time, Contreras Alvarez filed forms claiming he was unable to work because of an on-the-job injury. He told a physical therapist that apart from walks and going to the pool, he didn't do anything at home except rest to help his pain.

An anonymous tip to the state-run agency's hotline led to a year-long investigation into Contrera Alvarez's claims.

Investigators found that the man had been performing commercial shellfish work at his wife's company. In an interview, Contrera Alvarez denied working for her business.

Surveillance video showed Contrera Alvarez "doing everything from seeding the waterfront with oyster larvae to harvesting and bagging the shellfish" despite being too injured to work.

Contreras Alvarez faces up to 10 years in prison and $20,000 in penalties if he is convicted, in addition to paying restitution and other costs.

About the Author

Stefanie Valentic

Stefanie Valentic was formerly managing editor of EHS Today, and is currently editorial director of Waste360.

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