A Washington man who attempted to claim an injury he sustained in a bar fight was a workplace accident pleaded guilty Tuesday to stealing state workers’ compensation insurance benefits.
The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries in a news release said Chuck Wayne Riccio, 40, pleaded guilty to third-degree theft, which is a misdemeanor. Thurston County Superior Court Judge Sharonda Amamilo ordered him to reimburse the state and pay court costs.
Riccio, of Yelm, southwest of Olympia, filed a claim in October 2018 claiming he injured his right hand working at a bathtub and shower manufacturing company.
During its investigation, the state discovered the man had injured his hand in August of 2018 during a barroom brawl.
Riccio allegedly texted a photo to an acquaintance of him at a clinic with his bandaged right hand and a message reading, “i kinda said it happened at work.” He later texted the same person another photo later holding a workers’ compensation form and the message “Now L&I will cover it.”
The acquaintance turned over both texts to the state. Investigators also interviewed Riccio’s coworkers, who disputed his claims of getting injured at work, as well as the man who said he was the person Riccio punched in the bar fight.
Riccio’s supervisor told investigators Riccio told him he hurt his hand five days after starting work at the company, but Riccio listed a different date on his L&I claim.
“This was a flagrant example of someone trying to cheat the workers’ compensation system,” Chris Rowe, L&I’s assistant director of Fraud Prevention and Labor Standards, said in the news release. “We take every fraud case seriously, and we take action when we catch cheaters.”
According to local media reports, Riccio received $1,018 in medical benefits. His first court appearance in the matter was in January of 2020. At the time, he was facing a felony theft charge, which could have carried a maximum sentence of five years in prison and or a $10,000 fine.
Under Washington law, if Riccio is not convicted of any other crimes and follows other conditions of his sentence for one year, he can ask the court to allow him to change his plea and dismiss the case.