Olympia, WA – A drywall worker who admitted stealing workers’ compensation benefits and then evaded authorities for a year must serve 60 days in jail.
Pablo Francisco Castillo Murguia of Auburn was sentenced in Thurston County on Wednesday for felony first-degree theft. Superior Court Judge Chris Lanese also ordered the 40-year-old to repay $114,752 for cash benefits along with medical and vocational services he wrongfully received over more than five years.
The Washington Attorney General prosecuted the case based on an investigation by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I). L&I administers the state system that helps injured workers heal and return to work.
On the loose
Castillo Murguia pleaded guilty in March 2016, but he failed to appear for sentencing later that month. The court issued a warrant for his arrest, yet he remained on the loose for a year. Last month, he was arrested by an officer who noticed the warrant while serving him with an order in an unrelated case.
“The brazen deception in this case is stunning,” said Annette Taylor, deputy assistant director of L&I’s Fraud Prevention & Labor Standards. “Workers’ comp scammers are taking resources that are meant to help legitimately injured workers heal and return to work.
“Catching violators and holding them accountable helps us make sure the workers’ comp system is there and ready for employees and employers.”
Fall from walking stilts
The case started when Castillo Murguia fell from walking stilts as he taped drywall at a Seattle job site, injuring his right knee. He filed a workplace injury claim, calling himself Juan Pedro Castillo.
Treating physicians confirmed that his injury prevented him from working, allowing him to receive cash payments to make up for part of his lost wages. In addition, Castillo Murguia repeatedly stated on official forms that he couldn’t work, and wasn’t working, due to the on-the-job injury.
L&I’s investigation revealed that he not only used a fake name in the claim, but was working while receiving workers’ compensation benefits, charging papers said.
Another workplace injury
On Aug. 30, 2012, he reached a settlement with L&I and received a final lump sum of nearly $7,700 for additional vocational training necessitated by his knee injury. L&I closed his case.
Within three weeks, Castillo Murguia filed a claim for another workplace injury. He claimed he injured his left leg while working as a drywall taper on Bainbridge Island on Sept. 7, 2012 — just eight days after his original case closed. This time he filed under his real name.
Tip from interpreter
L&I was tipped off to the ruse by a Spanish-language interpreter, who had interpreted for Castillo Murguia on his first claim. When he asked her to interpret on his second claim, she learned he was using a different name.
Fake ID cards, driver’s license
Along with L&I’s work on this case, charging papers show the Washington Department of Licensing used its facial recognition system to determine that Castillo Murguia had fraudulently obtained two state-issued identification cards and a driver’s license under fake names. In early 2012, Licensing canceled the identification cards and suspended the driver’s license with the false names.
Source: WA L&I