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Nov. 6, 2009

Puyallup man charged with theft of $366,000 in workers' comp benefits

TUMWATER – A Puyallup man has been charged with 57 counts of felony theft for allegedly collecting workers' compensation benefits illegally.

Christopher Robin Briejer, 48, collected benefits from 2004 to 2009 on a reopened 2000 workplace-injury claim for low-back strain. Briejer claimed he was unable to work due to the earlier injury and that no other injuries had occurred in the meantime.

The Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) stopped benefit payments after an investigation determined that Briejer had suffered an unrelated injury in October 2003. At the time, he was self-employed and not paying for workers’ compensation insurance.

Briejer was arraigned yesterday in Pierce County Superior Court. He pled not guilty.

"The information from the public was vital to our investigation," commented Carl Hammersburg, manager of L&I’s Fraud Prevention and Compliance Program. "Reporting your suspicions about fraud helps protect legitimate employers and their injured workers who really deserve benefits."

Each felony count against Briejer carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine. The court could also order him to repay nearly $366,000 in benefits collected illegally. Briejer received $258,995 in time-loss payments, $75,295 in medical care and $31,651 in vocational rehabilitation benefits.

Whatever the outcome of the criminal case, Briejer will not continue receiving benefits. L&I avoided paying out an estimated $154,000 in benefits had Briejer remained on the workers’ compensation rolls for an additional two years.

L&I began investigating Briejer based on an anonymous tip on its fraud Web site.

The site, www.Fraud.Lni.wa.gov, includes an online form for reporting fraud. Anyone who suspects fraud may also call L&I’s fraud hotline at 1-888-811-5974.

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For media information: Barbara A. Davis, 360-902-4216.

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