L&I NEWS: Plumber in hot water over workers’ comp scam gets 45 days in detention

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WA LNI Communications Services - News

April 27, 2018                                                                                                   #18-012

Plumber in hot water over workers’ comp scam gets 45 days in detention

SEATTLE — An Auburn plumber who lied about working while he was receiving disability payments has been sentenced to serve 45 days in detention.

Bobby Eugene Stepp, 66, claimed he wasn’t working due to an on-the-job injury, while he was actually running his own plumbing business that took in more than $144,000 during that time.

King County Superior Court Judge Theresa Doyle ordered the sentence last week for Stepp, and allowed him to serve the time in electronic home monitoring. A hearing about repaying the wrongfully obtained benefits is scheduled for June 8.

Stepp pleaded guilty last month to felony, first-degree theft in the incident. The Washington Attorney General’s Office prosecuted the case based on a Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) investigation.

Installs bathtubs

Stepp lost his right leg due to a workplace accident in 2004. As a result, he received medical benefits and wage-replacement payments off and on until early 2015.

L&I began investigating in 2015 after a routine cross-match of Employment Security Department and L&I records showed Stepp was earning wages.

It turned out that in 2014, he worked first as a plumber for two companies and then operated his own plumbing business installing bathtubs, charging papers said. The company earned more than $144,000 from June through December that year, according to his bookkeeper’s records.

Officially declares he’s not working

During the same period, he received more than $29,000 in L&I wage-replacement payments. To qualify for the payments, Stepp signed official forms stating that he could not work, and was not working, because of his injury.

L&I administers the state workers’ compensation system, which helps injured employees heal and return to work. The department provides medical and vocational services, and, in some cases, a portion of injured workers’ wages if they can’t work due to their workplace injury or can’t do the same job. 

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For media information: Debby Abe, L&I Public Affairs, (debby.abe@Lni.wa.gov), (360) 902-6043

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