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Card dealer caught doubling down on comp fraud

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The House Always Wins — the house in this case being Washington state's workers comp system.

The game was definitely not rigged for 58-year-old Victor Arredondo, who pleaded guilty Monday in Spokane County Superior Court to felony second-degree theft and misdemeanor third-degree theft for receiving workers comp benefits for nearly eight months while he worked shifts at two casinos in the city.

Mr. Arredondo claimed he injured his lower back in May 2013 while working as a card dealer at a Spokane casino, according to an agency release. The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries opened a claim for Mr. Arredondo, and two doctors and a nurse practitioner certified he should receive wage-replacement payments. He received workers comp benefits from June 2013 through March 2014 after repeatedly stating on official forms that he couldn't work and wasn't working.

But Mr. Arredondo didn't play his cards right, as a cross-check of records with other state agencies uncovered the deception. A regulatory investigation found that Mr. Arredondo continued to work as a card dealer for nearly the entire eight months he was collecting workers comp benefits, but at casinos other than the one where he was injured. Mr. Arredondo's medical providers told regulators that if he had told them he was working, they would not have certified him to receive the state benefits.

Judge Gregory Sypolt ordered Mr. Arredondo to repay the department $27,183, the amount he admitted stealing in workers comp benefits. Restitution collected in the case will be returned to the state workers comp fund.

Judge Sypolt also sentenced Mr. Arredondo to 10 days in jail, but converted the jail time to 80 hours of community service. However, if Mr. Arredondo breaks the law or fails to comply with the sentencing terms within one year, he faces up to 364 days behind bars.

“We aggressively look for cheaters in the workers comp system like Mr. Arredondo and hold them accountable,” said Elizabeth Smith, assistant director of the department's Fraud Prevention & Labor Standards unit. “Defrauding the workers' comp system hurts the employers who pay into it and the injured workers who depend on it to recover and get back to work.”