Dry Cleaner Pleads Guilty to $21k in Fraudulent Workers' Comp Benefits

16 Dec, 2021 Liz Carey

                               

Olympia, WA (WorkersCompensation.com) – An Olympia, Washington, dry cleaner will have to repay more than $21,000 in workers’ compensation benefits after pleading guilty to fraud Dec. 8. 

According to the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries, Byung Sung Kang, 54, pleaded guilty to third-degree theft in Thurston County Superior Court to charges of workers’ compensation fraud. 

Officials said Kang stole more $21,725 in workers’ compensation benefits over the course of 14 months, when he returned to his job, while claiming an on-the-job injury was so severe that he couldn’t work. 

Kang co-owns Century Cleaners in Olympia and injured his back on -the-job in 2015. According to his doctor’s assessment, he was too injured to return to work and started receiving workers’ compensation benefits in late 2016. Kang regularly submitted forms stating that he was unable to work because of his injury. 

Investigators in Washington’s Department of Labor and Industries began investigating Kang in 2019 after information in state databases raised questions about Kang’s claims. 

L&I investigators talked to multiple witnesses throughout the year and surveilled Kang 32 times that year. According to the charging papers, while Kang told his doctors that he was resting at home, investigators observed Kang lifting heavy loads of laundry, hanging and bundling garments and doing other physical tasks at his store. 

In one example, an investigator filmed Kang working at his dry cleaning shop, the going to a medical exam. During that visit, the doctor wrote that Kang told him he had not worked since 2015. Investigators then filmed Kang returning to his shop and resuming his work. 

Judge Carol Murphy ordered Kang to repay the state $21,725 over the course of two years, making minimum payments of at least $905 per month. Additionally, Kang was sentenced to two years’ probation. 

“This was a blatant case of someone trying to cheat workers’ compensation and lying about injuries. Not on our watch," said Celeste Monahan, acting assistant director of L&I’s Fraud Prevention and Labor Standards division. “Stealing workers’ compensation benefits raises costs for honest employers and employees paying into the system. Even worse, it takes resources from legitimately injured workers who need to heal and return to work.” 

The case was one of several workers’ compensation fraud cases to hit the headlines this month. 

In the Bronx, New York, a man was on Nov. 11 on charges of grand larceny, insurance fraud and other charges for falsely claiming he was fully disabled and unable to work. 

According to the Bronx District Attorney, James Garner, 49, worked as a mental health therapy aide in the Office of Mental Health at New York City’s Children’s Center when he was injured on the job in 2019. 

However, an investigation into Garner found that between July 19, 2019 and July 31, 2020, while he claimed that he was fully disabled, and swore under oath he was not working, he instead worked an increased number of hours at his part-time job while collecting more than $35,000 in workers’ compensation benefits. 

“The defendant allegedly continued working an increased number of hours at his second job while collecting compensation for being unable to work for the state,” said Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark in a press release issued by his office. “He took advantage of a system in place that helps New Yorkers who truly need it, and now he will be held accountable.” 

Garner was charged with one count of third-degree grand larceny, one count of third-degree insurance fraud, five counts of first-degree falsifying business records, five counts of second-degree falsifying business records, five counts of first-degree offering a false instrument for filing, and one count of first-degree perjury. 

His next court date is Feb. 22, 2022. 

And in California, a Santa Rosa man has been ordered to repay more than $14,000 in restitution in an workers’ compensation insurance scam. 

According to the Marin County District Attorney’s Office, Douglas Satre, 38, allegedly slipped and fell while working for a telecom company in San Rafael, California. Satre told medical professionals, the DA’s office said, he wasn’t able to work, going so far as to use a cane to get to appointments. 

After filing a workers’ compensation claim, Satre began receiving temporary total disability benefits. 

However, an investigation by the California Department of Insurance found that for more than six months while he was collecting disability payments, Satre was also working for a new company. 

Marin County’s District Attorney filed fraud charges against Satre, to which he pleaded guilty. 

“We were happy to see Mr. Satre take responsibility at an early stage of these proceedings and work diligently to repay the victim,” said Marin County Deputy District Attorney Sean Kensinger. “Unfortunately, when an employee commits workers’ compensation fraud, the impact of that fraud ripples beyond just their employer and can result in increased premium costs for employers throughout the state. For this reason, the identification, investigation and prosecution of workers' compensation fraud remains a priority for the Marin County District Attorney's Office.” 

Satre will repay more than $14,000 in restitution, as well as serve 30 days in jail, serve one year of probation, perform 40 hours of community service and attend a theft awareness class.

 


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    • Liz Carey

      Liz Carey has worked as a writer, reporter and editor for nearly 25 years. First, as an investigative reporter for Gannett and later as the Vice President of a local Chamber of Commerce, Carey has covered everything from local government to the statehouse to the aerospace industry. Her work as a reporter, as well as her work in the community, have led her to become an advocate for the working poor, as well as the small business owner.

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