Everett, WA (WorkersCompensation.com) - A commercial real estate broker accused of faking injuries and a housekeeper accused of double-dipping workers' comp benefits each face criminal charges in unrelated cases in Snohomish County.
They're both scheduled to be arraigned this afternoon on one count of felony, first-degree theft in Snohomish County Superior Court. They're charged in separate cases with stealing workers' compensation insurance benefits from the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I).
The Washington Attorney General's office is prosecuting the cases based on investigations by L&I.
Received nearly $88,000 in cash benefits
According to court records, Robert K.J. Choe, 64, of Bothell, is accused of wrongfully obtaining nearly $88,000 in cash benefits over two years starting in the fall of 2015.
He was originally injured in 2014 when he fell on his back while working as a cook at a Bellevue restaurant. With a doctor's assessment that he was too injured to work, he began receiving money from L&I to replace part of his salary.
To continue receiving the payments, he officially declared that he wasn't working and couldn't work because of his on-the-job injury.
Undercover video, business documents
In 2017, L&I launched an investigation that found Choe had been working as a licensed real estate broker from as early as 2015. In 2016, he changed his name, which had been Kyeong Jin Choe, according to court records.
Investigators seized business and sales documents listing him as the buyer's or seller's agent for multiple commercial properties. At one point, investigators sent him an email about a $1.1 million commercial property he was listing, and received a response asking them to meet him at his office in Lynnwood.
Working undercover, investigators also videotaped Choe going back and forth to work multiple times, court records said.
In July 2017, they recorded his wife driving him in his BMW to his doctor's office. She helped him walk to the office as he took small steps and stumbled at the door's entrance. The same day, they taped Choe driving the BMW to his office, walking with a briefcase, and later carrying a wide package from a store to his car, all with no problem walking.
Labor & Industries stopped his cash benefits in the fall of 2017 after an L&I-contracted evaluator found he wasn't trying to exert himself in an evaluation of his physical abilities.
Housekeeper caught after records check
In an unrelated case, Graciela Ramos Guillen, 43, of Everett, is accused of wrongfully receiving more than $14,000 in wage-replacement payments and more than $1,300 in vocational benefits.
L&I began investigating Ramos Guillen after a routine comparison of L&I and Washington State Employment Security Department wage records in early 2018.
Ramos Guillen had been receiving wage-replacement benefits after falling while working as a housekeeper at a Bothell senior center, injuring her knees and right foot, in early 2017, according to court records. To continue receiving the payments, she officially declared that she wasn't working and couldn't work because of the workplace injury.
L&I's investigation found that about two months after she began receiving the payments, Ramos Guillen started working for a housekeeping company. According to court records, she worked as a housekeeper 30 to 40 hours a week for more than seven months, earning nearly $17,000.
L&I administers the state workers' compensation insurance system, which helps workers injured on the job heal and return to work. When cheaters receive benefits they're not entitled to, it raises costs for employers and employees and takes away resources from legitimately injured workers.