Grocery Worker, Aesthetician Sentenced in Separate Workers’ Comp Fraud Cases
A worker who claimed she hurt herself chasing a shoplifter, and an aestheticis who insisted her spa injury was so serious she couldn’t work have been sentenced in unrelated fraud cases.
Marlo Diana Johnston, 29, of Everett and Sulia Hernandez Carranza, 51, of Richland were sentenced this week after each pleaded guilty to felony theft.
The Washington Attorney General’s Office prosecuted the cases based on investigations by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I).
False injury claim during shoplifter chase
In Franklin County on Tuesday, Carranza pleaded guilty to second-degree theft, agreeing there was enough evidence for a jury to convict her.
Superior Court Judge Bruce Spanner sentenced Carranza to 30 days in jail, but allowed her to serve the time by electronic home monitoring or working on a county crew.
He also ordered her to repay the state $11,142, the total amount of benefits she received by falsely claiming she was injured on the job.
Carranza worked as a loss prevention specialist at a Pasco grocery store when she claimed she injured her knee while chasing a shoplifter in May 2014, charging papers said. Last year, Carranza apologized to her employer, saying she falsely filed an L&I workers’ comp claim to get treatment for a preexisting knee problem.
In Snohomish County on Wednesday, Superior Court Judge Ellen J. Fair accepted Marlo Johnston’s guilty plea to second-degree theft, sentenced her to 20 days in jail, and agreed to convert the time to 160 hours of community service.
The judge scheduled a hearing for Feb. 22 to determine the amount of restitution she must pay the state. The original charging documents alleged she stole more than $16,000 in wage replacement payments.
Johnston was accused of stealing wage replacement payments while signing official L&I documents that stated she wasn’t working because of a workplace injury. An L&I investigation, however, found she was working as an aesthetician at a medical services spa in Edmonds from September 2012 through February 2013.
Johnston began receiving L&I benefits after hurting her left hand in an on-the-job injury at a Bellevue salon and spa in 2007. Her physician had approved her to receive wage-replacement checks, but according to charging papers, Johnston didn’t tell the doctor when she returned to work.
It’s illegal for injured workers to receive wage-replacement payments while falsely claiming they are unable to work and haven’t been working due to an on-the-job injury.