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August 3, 2001

Ear-Tec owner sentenced to five years for fraud

TUMWATER - The owner of Ear-Tec Hearing Aid Specialists today was sentenced to five years in prison. The sentence is a result of a two-year investigation of the firm by the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I).

Pierce County Superior Court Judge Frederick B. Hayes delivered the sentence to 54-year-old Shahn Aaron Divorne. As part of the sentence, Divorne and Ear-Tec are prohibited from providing services to injured workers. A no-contact order also prohibits Divorne and Ear-Tec from contacting injured workers for 10 years.

In June, a jury convicted Divorne of 13 counts of theft in the first degree, one count of conspiracy to commit theft in the first degree and three counts of false statements to Labor & Industries. All are felonies. The month-long trial is Pierce County's longest this year.

"We're pleased that Divorne and Ear-Tec no longer can provide services for injured workers," said Gary Moore, Labor & Industries director. "This company committed fraud and abused the trust of the injured workers who were receiving Ear-Tec services."

Divorne also must pay $283,000 in restitution to the Department of Labor & Industries.

Ear-Tec has locations in Puyallup, Kent, Aberdeen, Centralia, Spokane and Kennewick.

Ear-Tec was providing hearing aids for injured workers covered by Labor & Industries.

Injured workers who are being treated by Ear-Tec Hearing Aid Specialists, or have any questions about their claim, should contact their claim manager or 1-800-LISTENS (1-800-547-8367).

Labor & Industries' Provider Fraud Unit began investigating Ear-Tec in May 1999 for over billing the department after receiving complaints from former Ear-Tec employees.

The L&I investigation showed the firm was needlessly replacing and repairing hearing aids for injured workers and billing the department. Some of the other findings found during the L&I investigation showed Ear-Tec:

  • Billed L&I for hearing aid supplies it had no invoice to support.
  • Billed L&I for repairs made while the hearing aid was under manufacturer's warranty.
  • Billed the department a higher price than it billed the general public.
  • Altered records submitted to the department for review.

Labor & Industries administers the state's workers' compensation system. Employers and workers pay workers' compensation premiums into the State Fund. L&I administers benefits and pays medical bills when workers are hurt or become ill on the job. The agency provides coverage for about 160,000 employers and 1.5 million workers.

Anyone who suspects fraudulent activity may report it anonymously to L&I online at fraud.lni.wa.gov or by calling 1-800-547-8367.

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