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April 13, 2005

Walla Walla man sentenced for fraudulently cashing L&I benefit check

TUMWATER — A 48-year-old Walla Walla man will spend the next 18 months in state prison after being convicted of stealing a benefit check and forging the signature of a disabled worker who had died.

Thomas Edwin Smith was found guilty in Walla Walla County Superior Court in late February of one count of forgery and one count of possession of stolen property. He was sentenced March 7. Each count carries an 18-month sentence, which will run concurrently.

An investigation by the Department of Labor & Industries and the Walla Walla police found that Smith stole the $682.38 check from the Park Manor Rehabilitation Center in April 2004 shortly after the death of the L&I claimant. The center’s staff told investigators that they had marked the unopened check for return to the agency and put it in the center’s outgoing mailbox. According to the investigation, Smith, who worked as a handy man, forged the claimant’s signature on the check and then talked one of his customers into cashing the check at her bank.

In addition to the sentence, Smith has been ordered to pay restitution to L&I. He also has been prohibited from going near Park Manor after he is released from prison.

L&I’s Fraud Prevention and Compliance Program aggressively pursues cases of worker, employer and provider fraud. For more information about the department’s anti-fraud efforts, or to report a case of fraud, please call L&I’s toll-free number at 1-888-811-5974 or go on-line at www.Fraud.LNI.wa.gov.

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Media contact: Robert T. Nelson in L&I Public Affairs at 360-902-6043 or at nelq235@LNI.wa.gov.

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