A Kalama man is set to be arraigned Tuesday on one count of felony first-degree theft after a Washington Labor & Industries investigation alleges he was faking injuries to collect nearly $300,000 in workers’ compensation benefits.
James Joseph Thomasson, 52, was injured while working as a logger in the fall of 2006, according to L&I. A tree hit his leg, causing bruises and abrasions. A year later, he claimed he hurt his back while using a wedge to fell a tree in Shelton, according to the state Department of Labor & Industries.
Thomasson’s medical provider told the department he couldn’t work because of his injuries, and he was eligible to receive payments for part of his lost wages. He regularly submitted forms stating he was unable to work because of the injuries, according to the department press release.
Thomasson collected more than $249,000 in wage replacement payments and nearly $50,000 in vocational and medical benefits from March 2016 through January 2020, according to the press release.
L&I began investigating Thomasson in 2019 after receiving an anonymous tip he was misrepresenting his injuries and working as a beekeeper.
“Workers who fake or exaggerate the extent of their injury and receive money are cheating,” Fraud Prevention and Labor Standards assistant director Chris Bowe said in a statement. “When we receive tips from the public we will investigate.”
Undercover investigators watched and recorded Thomasson multiple times in 2019 and obtained security and social media footage of him dancing, walking normally and performing various activities, according to the department.
Investigators recorded Thomasson in March 2019 walking slowly with a limp into a medical clinic. After he left, they recorded him at a rest area walking briskly uphill, backwards, while talking on a cell phone, and later the same day at his home moving a garbage can with one hand and holding the phone in the other. When he spotted investigators in a car, he immediately started limping toward his house, according to the department.
An investigator showed the surveillance videos to Thomasson’s provider in January 2020, and they determined he was “intentionally misrepresenting his physical capabilities.” He had been able to work back in March 2019, according to the department.
Thomasson is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday in Thurston County Superior Court. First-degree felony theft carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine, plus restitution.