PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – A Kalama man has been sentenced to home detention and a state fine after reportedly faking workplace injuries for workers’ compensation, according to the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries.
The department identified the man as 53-year-old James Joseph Thomasson who admitted to stealing workers’ compensation benefits from January 2018 to January 2020. After pleading guilty to a felony charge of second-degree theft, Thomasson was ordered to 60 days in home detention and must repay the state $163,566.
According to WSDL&I, Thomasson was involved in several logging accidents, including in 2006 when his leg was struck by a tree and sustained bruises and abrasions. A year later, Thomasson said he hurt his back in another workplace accident while using a wedge to fall a tree in Shelton.
Thomasson’s medical provider told the department he could not work due to the injuries and was eligible for the payments to make up for lost wages.
However, investigators said they received an anonymous tip leading them to catch Thomasson “performing numerous physical activities that were inconsistent with his medically prescribed restrictions,” the department said.
Department investigators reportedly recorded Thomasson walking briskly uphill, found a social media clip of him dancing and another video of him lifting a heavy tool above his head. According to the department, it appeared Thomasson would walk slowly and limp at doctor’s appointments and when he thought he was under surveillance.
Investigators showed the videos to Thomasson’s medical provider who determined he was faking his physical capabilities and was able to work in March 2016, according to court documents.
According to the provider, Thomasson “engaged in well-executed intentional underperformance” of his abilities.
“The workers’ comp system is intended to help injured workers heal and get back to work— not line the pockets of cheaters,” said Celeste Monahan, assistant director of L&I’s Fraud Prevention and Labor Standards division.
Monahan added, “this case shows how seriously we take it when people fake injuries and steal money meant to help others.”
WSDL&I said a judge granted Thomasson’s request to start home detention up to 90 days after sentencing so he could work during fire season this summer.