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The Wheels Never Stopped Turning

hand holding American dollar currency isolated on blurred blackground injured woman with broken hand and green cast on arm, insurance health concept.
Senior Director of Strategic Alliances
LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Government

Workers compensation is a form of insurance providing supplemental wages and medical benefits to employees injured during the course of their employment. Depending on the injury, workers can either acquire temporary or permanent disability payments and medical benefits. Some fraudsters try to take advantage of this program meant to help those in need. (No surprise there.)

A Renton, Wa. resident has pleaded guilty to first degree theft after defrauding the state out of $340,000 in workers compensation payments. Robert Strasbaugh will need to repay the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I).

Strasbaugh was formerly working as a delivery driver until a doctor determined he could not work due to an on-the-job knee injury in 2003. The doctor temporarily disqualified him from returning to his position as a delivery driver.

By using his wife’s name and Social Security number, Strasbaugh was able to work while still receiving workers compensation payments. He worked for three years at a company unloading freight weighing between 100 and 500 pounds. (Even the most able-bodied men would struggle with that weight, let alone supposedly disabled ones.)

Additionally, Strasbaugh contracted for an apple delivery company using his own name. He rented delivery trucks over 26 times for the company with the intention of operating the vehicle and making deliveries himself. (How do you like them apples? Or, how about the idea of making some extra money was too apple-ing for him to pass up? Corny, I know. Stick with me.)

In 2016 his temporary wage-replacement payments ended and Strasbaugh became qualified to receive L&I pension payments for the rest of his life. This change from temporary to permanent payments was caused by statements from his doctor stating that he remained completely disabled. (That doctor was either easily fooled or Strasbaugh put on one heck of a performance.)

The continued lifelong L&I payments were dependent on the condition that Strasbaugh remain unable to work due to his condition. L&I received an anonymous tip in 2017 that Strasbaugh was violating the conditions of his payments. (One good citizen noticed something fishy was going on and reported it.)

The department launched an investigation which spanned two years and determined that Strasbaugh had worked for different companies as a delivery driver from 2012 to 2017. These positions include the work he completed using his wife’s information and the work he did for other companies as a contractor.

The investigation subsequently led to L&I ending Strasbaugh’s pension in 2018. Strasbaugh was ordered to repay the hundreds of thousands of dollars he fraudulently acquired. He was also ordered to spend 45 days confined to his home which will be tracked through an electronic monitoring anklet. (He will be joining the rest of the nation in staying home and sitting on the couch all day.)

Workers compensation fraud is often misconstrued as a victimless crime but it actually takes funds away from honest workers who have been injured and are in need of assistance. Public tips are an essential part of identifying and prosecuting workers’ compensation fraud. To report fraud related to workers compensation call the Office of Inspector General hotline at 1-800-347-3756 or email at hotline@oig.dol.gov.

Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from an article, “Renton man pleads guilty to one of state’s largest workers’ comp scams,” published by Federal Way Mirror on June 23, 2020.

A Renton delivery driver has been ordered to repay hundreds of thousands of dollars to the state after pulling off one of the largest worker’s fraud compensation scams in Washington’s recent history.

Robert Strasbaugh, 67, has pleaded guilty to first degree theft in the case and will need to pay back almost $340,000 to the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries. He must also spend 45 days in electronic home monitoring.

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