TUMWATER, WA – A Cowlitz County man has been charged with faking injuries to earn nearly $ 300,000 in workers’ compensation benefits.
James Joseph Thomasson, 52, of Kalama, WA, is to be arraigned on Tuesday, May 25 in Thurston County Superior Court on a count of first degree theft.
Thomasson is accused of falsely claiming that his injuries at work were so severe that he could not work, which allowed him to receive workers’ compensation benefits for almost four years.
A Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) investigation recorded and found video of Thomasson dancing, walking normally, and performing various physical activities – but limping near a medical clinic and at times when he thought he was being watched, according to charging documents. .
L&I opened the investigation in 2019 after receiving an anonymous information that Thomasson had deformed his wounds and was working as a beekeeper.
âWorkers who fake or exaggerate the extent of their injury and receive money are cheating,â said Chris Bowe, deputy director of L&I’s fraud prevention and labor standards division. âWhen we get advice from the public, we will investigate.
“We greatly appreciate the public’s help in identifying people who are receiving money to which they are not entitled.”
Tips can be reported to the Fraud division of L&I (Lni.wa.gov/Fraud) or by calling 1-888-811-5974.
Injured in logging accidents
Thomasson was injured while working as a lumberjack in the fall of 2006. He was struck in the leg by a tree, suffering from bruises and abrasions. A year later, he claimed to have injured his back while using a wedge to fell a tree in Shelton.
His medical supplier told L&I that Thomasson could not work due to the workplace injuries. As a result, he was eligible to receive payments for part of his lost wages. In addition, Thomasson regularly submitted official forms stating that he was unable to work due to the injuries, according to court documents.
He raised over $ 249,000 in salary replacement payments and nearly $ 50,000 in professional and medical benefits from March 2016 to January 2020, period covered by the expense.
Videos of the accused walking briskly uphill, dancing
Undercover investigators watched and recorded Thomasson several times in 2019 and obtained security camera and social media footage.
They found an Instagram clip of him moving his hips side to side while dancing. An investigator saw him lift a large metal “stake” – a heavy pipe with handles welded to the sides – above his head to drive steel bars into the floor of his house.
Box at the doctor’s office and in front of the investigators
An investigator wrote in prosecution documents that Thomasson often acted as if he thought he was under surveillance, especially during medical appointments.
In March 2019, for example, investigators recorded him walking slowly and limping to a medical clinic.
But after he left the clinic, they recorded him in a rest area walking briskly uphill, backwards, while talking on a cell phone, and later that same day at his home moving a car. trash can with one hand and hold the phone with the other. But when he spotted investigators in a car, he immediately started limping towards his house.
Thomasson told his doctor at the end of 2019 that he knew an L&I investigator was watching him.
In January 2020, an investigator showed the surveillance videos to the provider, a registered nurse practitioner. After evaluating the videos, the provider determined that Thomasson intentionally distorted his physical abilities and was in fact able to work in March 2016, according to court documents.
The supplier concluded that Thomasson had “engaged in a well-executed intentional underperformance” of its capabilities.
First degree criminal theft carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of $ 20,000, plus restitution.