An Auburn man will spend 60 days in jail for stealing workers’ compensation benefits.
Thurston County Superior Court Judge Chris Lanese on April 5 sentenced Pablo Francisco Castillo Murguia, 40, for felony first-degree theft and ordered him to repay $114,752 for cash benefits and medical and vocational services he wrongfully received for more than five years.
Castillo Murguia pleaded guilty in March 2016 but 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, an officer who was serving him with an order in an unrelated case noticed the warrant and arrested him.
The Washington Attorney General prosecuted the case based on an investigation by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I), which administers the state system that helps injured workers heal and return to work.
“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,” Taylor added.
Here’s what happened, according to L&I.
On June 27, 2000, Castillo Murguia was taping drywall at a Seattle job site when he fell from his walking stilts and injured his right knee. He filed a workplace injury claim using the bogus name “Juan Pedro Castillo.”
Treating physicians soon confirmed that “Juan Pedro Castillo’s” injury prevented him from working, which allowed him to receive cash payments to make up for part of his lost wages. From September 2006 to August 2012, he continued to receive wage-replacement checks.
According to L&I, “Juan Pedro Castillo” repeatedly stated on official forms that he couldn’t work, and wasn’t working because of the on-the-job injury. L&I’s investigation revealed, however, that not only had Castillo Murguia used a fake name in his original claim but that he had also continued to work while receiving workers’ compensation benefits.
On Aug. 30, 2012, “Juan Pedro Castillo” 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 of the settlement date, according to L&I, Castillo Murguia filed a claim for another workplace injury, this time using his real name. He claimed he had 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.
A Spanish-language interpreter who had interpreted for Castillo Murguia on his first claim, however, tipped L&I off to the scam. According to charging papers, the woman told L&I she discovered he was using a different name when he asked her to interpret on his second claim.
Police arrested him on Jan. 13, 2016 in Thurston County.
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 cancelled the identification cards and suspended the driver’s license with the false names.