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March 23, 2001

State workers' comp investigation leads to criminal charges

TUMWATER - A one-year investigation by the Department of Labor & Industries and the Clark County Sheriff's Office led to criminal charges against a married couple in Clark County today.

The Clark County Prosecuting Attorney's Office today filed three felony counts against Larry J. Brossard and his wife, Phyllis A. Brossard, of Brush Prairie, for failing to report and pay workers' compensation premiums on three businesses owned by the couple.

"We're pleased these criminal charges were filed today," said Joel Sacks of the Department of Labor & Industries. The deputy director for field service operations said, "it's not fair to honest employers if a competitor gains an advantage by not paying a fair share of premiums."

Sacks said the department is working harder to find businesses that are not reporting and paying appropriate premiums.

"We want to see an environment where playing by the rules pays off on the bottom line for employers," Sacks said.

Today's charges arose from Labor & Industries' (L&I) investigation that determined the Brossards had stopped reporting workers' hours to L&I for their excavating company and had been paying employees "cash under the table."

While serving a search warrant to seize the firm's financial records for L&I last March, the Clark County Sheriff's Office uncovered an indoor marijuana operation. The plants had a street value of about $210,000. The couple also was charged today with unlawful manufacture of a controlled substance.

After examining financial records, L&I determined the couple owned two more businesses not registered with the department. They never paid workers' compensation premiums for workers at those businesses.

Workers' compensation premiums provide benefits for workers hurt on the job. Benefits can include medical costs, partial wage replacement payments, vocational services, disability and pensions.

The businesses operated by the Brossards include Larry J. Brossard Excavating, Inc., and two sole proprietorships - an interstate trucking business and a bumper boat amusement ride business. L&I estimates the businesses employed about 25 people at any given time.

Labor & Industries determined the couple owes the department premiums, penalties and interest totaling about $230,000 from January 1993 through March 2000.

Unreported workers' compensation fraud can cost competing employers through lost bids, lower profits and higher costs for workers' compensation premiums. Workers can suffer lower wages and consumers may pay higher costs for services, Sacks said.

Anyone who suspects fraudulent activity may report it anonymously to L&I by calling 1-888-811-5974 or online at fraud.lni.wa.gov.

Labor & Industries manages the state's workers' compensation system. It provides coverage for about 163,000 employers and 1.9 million workers.

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