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Oyster harvester on slippery slope with comp

Posted On: Apr. 24, 2019 11:58 AM CST


Fraudsters may see the world as their oyster.

Such might be the case with a Shelton, Washington, man now facing felony theft charges accusing him of commercially harvesting and delivering shellfish while claiming he was disabled from a back injury and couldn’t work, the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries announced Tuesday.

Jose Cruz Contreras Alvarez is accused of stealing more than $70,000 in workers compensation benefits from late 2016 through July 2017, according to a statement documenting a yearlong investigation that led to video of Mr. Alvarez loading bags of oysters onto trucks owned by a wholesaler.

Mr. Alvarez had been receiving comp benefits since at least early 2013 for a back injury he suffered while working as a shellfish harvester for another company. An anonymous tip that he had since been working for his wife’s harvesting company "doing everything from seeding the waterfront with oyster larvae to harvesting and bagging the shellfish” led to the investigation, according to the department’s statement.