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January 15, 2002

State orders former Yakima resident to repay over $209,000
in fraud case

The state has ordered a former Yakima resident to pay back more than $209,000 after an investigation showed that he collected workers' compensation benefits illegally for over nine years.

The Department of Labor & Industries ordered Jesus Nunez Vargas - currently living in Mexico - to repay $139,625 in benefits collected fraudulently from July 30, 1990, through September 14, 1999. State law allows for an additional 50 percent penalty, bringing the repayment order to $209,437.

Vargas, 60, was receiving workers' compensation benefits for a September 10, 1988, on-the-job injury he sustained while working as a meat cutter for Washington Beef Inc. in Toppenish.

An investigation showed that Vargas had been working in orchards for several different employers under an assumed name, Jesus Nunez, while he was receiving workers' compensation disability benefits from the department. Vargas submitted documentation to the department stating that he was not working and was eligible for disability benefits.

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

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