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Jan. 9, 1998

Pierce County residents will pay restitution in workers' comp cases

Two Pierce County residents will pay restitution to a state agency after they admitted to illegally collecting benefits in the workers' compensation system.

William E. Belcher, 39, Eatonville, pleaded guilty Jan. 5 in Pierce County Superior Court to first-degree theft. Judge Bryan Chushcoff sentenced Belcher to 85 days of partial home confinement in which his movements will be tracked electronically. This is scheduled to begin no later than Jan. 20.

The judge also ordered Belcher to pay $9,850 to the Department of Labor & Industries, the amount he collected illegally. An investigation showed that he had a valid injury but returned to work within three days. However, he failed to report his return to work and continued to collect benefits for several months.

In the other case, Christina Behannon, 43, Roy, admitted to illegally collecting benefits. Records show that she filed a claim in January 1995 for a back injured while working as a registered nurse at Western State Hospital. Between January 1995 and January 1996, Behannon collected time-loss payments and received medical care. But at the same time, she worked as a second lieutenant in the Air Force Reserve at McChord Air Force Base and signed statements that she was in good health and was not receiving any workers' compensation benefits.

Following an investigation by Labor & Industries, Behannon agreed in December 1997 to pay $10,000 in restitution -- $4,000 each to Labor & Industries, and the Office of Special Investigation with the state Department of Social and Health Services, and $2,000 to Colonial Life & Accident Insurance. If she complies fully, no criminal charge will appear on her record, according to court documents.

Labor & Industries manages the workers' compensation system in Washington for 157,000 employers and 1.4 million workers. The system pays for lost wages and medical care when a person is injured on the job.

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