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September 8, 1999

Cheney man ordered to pay state $123,000 in workers' comp fraud case

TUMWATER -- After a two-year appeal, a state board has ordered L. Leonard Rist of Cheney to repay $123,000 in workers' compensation benefits that he collected illegally for more than eight years.

In May 1997, the Department of Labor & Industries ordered Rist to repay benefits he received from December 16, 1988 to Jan. 15, 1997. Rist began receiving a pension on May 21, 1986, for a work-related back injury that left him permanently disabled.

He also filed annual statements from 1988 to 1997 declaring that his injury continued to prevent him from working. But a lengthy department investigation showed that Rist drove commercial trucks, operated heavy machinery and installed septic tanks, among other jobs, between 1988 and 1997.

During that time, Rist filed bankruptcy for a trucking business, G.M. Rist Enterprises. He hauled material for the Kootenai County Solid Waste Department and Appleway Septic. He also installed septic systems for Trumark Industries. Rist also had accidents driving a commercial truck for WTB Trucking, Inc. in August and October 1995.

After Labor & Industries ceased payments and issued an original order in 1997 to recoup benefits, Rist appealed to the state Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals. The board reviews decisions in the workers' compensation system.

The board recently decided that Rist "intentionally deceived" the department and upheld the original demand. The repayment order includes the $82,000 Rist received in benefits plus a 50 percent penalty that state law allows in such fraud cases.

Labor & Industries manages the workers' compensation. It provides coverage to about 163,000 employers and almost 1.6 million workers.

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