A married couple working at their son’s auto repair shop in Vancouver, Wash. Who claimed they were injured in the shop and received workers’ compensation benefits for their injuries are now all two accused of stealing these allowances from the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries.
The charges accuse Jeffrey Bart Pierson, 61, of stealing more than $ 116,000 in workers’ health insurance benefits over about two years. The charges also indicate that Karen S. Pierson, 62, stole more than $ 64,000 in benefits over about 15 months. The two are indicted on one count of first-degree felony theft in Thurston County Superior Court Tuesday.
L&I investigators are said to have recorded more than 100 video clips of the defendants working at My Dad’s Automotive & Exhaust during the same period when the couple regularly declared on official forms that they were not working due to injuries sustained at work.
Jeffrey Pierson injured his back while moving equipment around the store in June 2018. A year later, Karen Pierson was walking up stairs when she injured her neck, knee and arm while she was working there. Their medical providers determined that they could not work due to injuries sustained on the job, which made them eligible to receive payments to replace part of their salary.
An L&I investigator presented surveillance videos of the defendants to separate panels of independent forensic pathologists, who determined that Karen Pierson should have been able to return to work on July 3, 2019, the day she claimed to be injured, and that Jeffrey Pierson is expected to be able to return to work in August 2018, about five weeks after his injury.
L&I began investigating Jeffrey Pierson after receiving an anonymous tip in February 2020 that he was still working.
In nearly 90 videos from March to October 2020, Pierson was reportedly filmed cutting exhaust pipes, lifting a trash can over his head, working under vehicles on a lift and performing various other tasks, according to the load documents.
Meanwhile, a recommendation from L&I staff sparked the investigation of Karen Pierson around the same time as her husband’s. My Dad’s Automotive had been late paying its insurance premiums for workers for several years, according to the prosecution documents.
L&I’s revenue officer responsible for collecting overdue premiums discovered that while he was corresponding with Karen Pierson about the business, she was claiming to another party at L&I that she was too injured to work. Investigators recorded nearly 60 videos and photos of her working in the store between March and December 2020.
On October 21, 2020, two L&I investigators visited My Dad’s Automotive to ask why the store reported to L&I that Jeffrey Pierson was making $ 5,000 the month he was injured while also reporting to another state agency that ‘He was earning $ 2,000 a month before the injury, according to charge papers.
Upon arrival, they allegedly saw Jeffrey Pierson working in a service area and Karen Pierson working in the office, according to the charge documents.
The Washington State Attorney General’s Office is pursuing the case based on the L&I investigation.
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