WA dental hygienist charged with cleaning up in $81,000-plus workers’ comp scam

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Seattle – A dental hygienist faces a felony theft charge after she was caught working while receiving more than $81,000 in workers’ compensation disability payments.

Shari Lee Kristiansen, 53, of Lynnwood, faces one count of first-degree theft. She’s slated to be arraigned in King County Superior Court on Thursday, Nov. 3.

The Washington Attorney General’s Office is prosecuting the case based on an investigation by the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I), which administers the state workers’ compensation system.

A routine comparison of L&I and state Employment Security Department records turned up the alleged double-dipping.

“We have checks in place to catch workers’ comp thieves,” said Elizabeth Smith, assistant director of L&I’s Fraud Prevention & Labor Standards. “If you’re even thinking of trying to scam the system that helps legitimately injured workers, forget about it!”

Misrepresentations to doctors

Kristiansen filed a claim with L&I in March 2013, saying she injured her thumbs and hands while working as a dental hygienist for several dentists in King and Snohomish counties. However, charging papers state, she misrepresented her activities and the extent of her injuries to her physicians, who relied on her statements to tell L&I that she couldn’t work as a dental hygienist.

L&I provided benefits to Kristiansen, including cash payments to make up for part of her lost wages. To confirm she was eligible, Kristiansen repeatedly stated on official forms that she couldn’t work, and wasn’t working, because of the on-the-job injury.

But an L&I investigation later found she continued to work for various dentists from the time she was injured through May 2013, and then for 11 months starting in late October 2014, charging papers said.

In all, L&I paid nearly $57,000 in wage-replacement checks to Kristiansen, more than $19,000 for medical benefits and nearly $6,000 for vocational counseling.

Content retrieved from: http://lni.wa.gov/News/2016/pr161102a.asp