logging

OLYMPIA - A Cowlitz County man faces a first-degree felony charge after he collected almost $300,000 after he allegedly faked his injures after a logging accident in Shelton in 2007.

According to Washington’s Department of Labor and Industries, 52-year-old James Thomasson of Kalama was arraigned Tuesday, May 25 in Thurston County Superior Court.

Thomasson is accused of falsely claiming that his on-the-job injuries were so severe that he couldn’t work, enabling him to receive workers’ comp benefits for a long time.

A Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) investigation recorded and found video of Thomasson dancing, walking normally, and performing various physical activities – but limping near a medical clinic and at times when he thought he was being watched, according to charging documents.

L&I launched the investigation in 2019 after receiving an anonymous tip that Thomasson was misrepresenting his injuries and working as a beekeeper.

“Workers who fake or exaggerate the extent of their injury and receive money are cheating,” said Chris Bowe, assistant director of L&I’s Fraud Prevention and Labor Standards division. “When we receive tips from the public we will investigate."

“We greatly appreciate the public’s assistance in identifying people who are receiving money they’re not entitled to.”

Thomasson was injured while working as a logger in the fall of 2006. He was struck in the leg by a tree, suffering bruises and abrasions. A year later, he claimed he hurt his back while using a wedge to fell a tree in Shelton.

His medical provider told L&I that Thomasson could not work due to the workplace injuries. As a result, he was eligible to receive payments for part of his lost wages. In addition, Thomasson regularly submitted official forms stating he was unable to work because of the injuries, according to court papers.

He collected more than $249,000 in wage replacement payments and nearly $50,000 in vocational and medical benefits from March 2016 through January 2020, the period the charges cover.

In January 2020, an investigator showed the surveillance videos to Thomasson’s medical provider, an advanced registered nurse practitioner. After evaluating the videos, the provider determined Thomasson was intentionally misrepresenting his physical capabilities and had actually been able to work back in March 2016, court papers said.

The provider concluded that Thomasson had “engaged in well-executed intentional underperformance” of his abilities.

First-degree felony theft carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine, plus restitution.