Tri-Cities auto repair owner caught second time in workers’ comp scam, pleads guilty
KENNEWICK — A Kennewick business owner has pleaded guilty to a felony after failing to provide workers’ compensation insurance for his employees for the second time.
Benton-Franklin Superior Court Judge Norma Rodriguez recently sentenced Rodney Eugene Dietrich to 30 days of electronic home monitoring.
Dietrich, 47, pleaded guilty to doing business without workers’ compensation insurance, a felony offense.
Dietrich employed two men at his auto repair shop, Rod’s Cars, in Kennewick, from November 2017 to May 2019. However, he failed to provide state workers’ compensation insurance, which would help them recover if they were injured on the job.
One employee said he was paid in cash under the table. The other said he traded his labor for auto parts or other items, according to an investigation by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I).
This is the second time Dietrich has been charged for skipping out on workers’ compensation insurance. In 2016, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor version of the same offense.
The Washington State Office of the Attorney General prosecuted both cases based on L&I investigations.
Workers’ comp helps injured workers and their families
“Washington employers pay workers’ compensation premiums to be sure that workers and their families are taken care of if they are injured or killed at work,” said Steve Reinmuth, assistant director of L&I’s Field Services and Public Safety.
“Breaking the law and passing those costs onto other employers who obey the law is shameful.”
Workers’ compensation coverage, also called industrial insurance, provides medical, vocational and other services to help workers injured on the job heal and return to work. The coverage also provides pensions for survivors of workers who die of workplace injuries.
Employers and employees share the cost of insurance premiums.
L&I administers the state workers’ compensation system.
History of failing to pay workers’ comp
Dietrich operated the auto shop at the same location from at least 2004. However, he changed its name, business structure, and business license number three times after each one fell behind on workers’ comp payments.
After repeated notices and warnings, L&I revoked Dietrich’s workers’ comp insurance on the three business entities, which meant he could no longer hire employees. Despite the revocations, an L&I investigation in 2014 found he was employing at least two workers at the shop.
In October 2016, Dietrich pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of doing business without workers’ compensation insurance.
Breaks law again
In November 2017, L&I employees driving by Dietrich’s auto shop — within two miles from an L&I field office and on a main thoroughfare — noticed that the business appeared to have workers again.
L&I launched another investigation. Investigators staked out the shop for a year-and-a-half and recorded Dietrich and employees working there, leading to the recent criminal case.
Along with facing time for the criminal case, the Kennewick resident owes L&I more than $40,000 in late premiums, interest and penalties, according to department records. He also owes more than $2,200 in wages and penalties for failing to pay an employee in 2013.
Having trouble paying insurance premiums?
L&I wants to work with you. Our Employer Assistance Program may be able to help. Call 1-800-301-1826 to be connected to a revenue agent.
Debby Abe L&I Public Affairs, 360-902-6043,