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September 20, 2001

Seattle man ordered to repay state $353,998

TUMWATER - In one of the largest fraud orders ever issued against an individual, the Washington Department of Labor & Industries has ordered a 64-year-old Seattle man to repay the state $353,998 after an investigation showed he continued to work while collecting workers' compensation benefits.

Bob Chaffin began collecting benefits in 1985 after he claimed he was disabled by an injury that left him with tremors, shakes and cognitive difficulties. Since then he has routinely filed verification forms saying he was unable to work.

L&I's investigation, however, discovered that Chaffin continued to earn money, working under 10 aliases, six social security numbers and at least five business names.

For much of the time he was collecting state benefits, Chaffin was traveling the country selling his skills as a hypnotist, working at carnivals, trade shows and fairs, and selling self-help hypnosis tapes for weight loss, smoking cessation and relaxation. The evidence against Chaffin included video of him hawking his wares and running four booths at the Spokane County Fair. Over a period of seven years he deposited nearly $800,000 in two checking accounts.

The order against Chaffin reflects the amount of money he collected in workers' compensation benefits plus penalties, interest and the expense of L&I's investigation. The agency has turned the case over to prosecutors for the possible filing of criminal charges.

Labor & Industries manages the state's workers' compensation system, providing coverage for more than 163,000 employers and 1.9 million workers. L&I is committed to preventing and fighting fraud. Anyone who suspects fraudulent activity may report it anonymously at fraud.lni.wa.gov or by calling 1-888-811-5974.

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