Richland man denies bilking state out of $24,000

Kristin M. Kraemer, Herald staff writerOctober 8, 2009 

A Richland man pleaded innocent Wednesday to allegations he continued to install satellite dishes while pocketing nearly $24,000 from the state for an on-the-job injury.

Alexander Alfred Stoops, 35, repeatedly claimed that he was unable to work because he injured his lower back at a Walla Walla job site in January 2008, prosecutors said.

Stoops received 17 checks from the Washington Department of Labor & Industries between April and November 2008. In that same period, he reportedly was working as a sub-contractor with another company -- a job that required him to lift 30- to 50-pound boxes.

Stoops is charged in Benton County Superior Court with one count of first-degree theft and 16 counts of second-degree theft. His trial is set to start Dec. 28.

The case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Susan Sackett Danpullo since the alleged victim is a state agency.

Stoops was a cable and internet installer when he was injured nearly two years ago. He then filed an L&I claim and was granted benefits because he said he couldn't work.

Then in September 2008, a state investigator got word that Stoops was working while receiving time-loss compensation, court documents said. Stoops' employer at the time of his injury reported that Stoops had been working for several months for Direct TV in Pasco, documents said. He even handed over a copy of Stoops' business card with Direct TV.

Investigator Reynaldo Gomez met with Pasco's Direct TV managers the next month and learned that Stoops had been a sub-contractor for several months and stopped by the warehouse every few days to pick up satellite dish equipment for installations, said court documents filed by Danpullo. After the equipment was carted out to Stoops' vehicle, he would lift the heavy boxes "with no trouble," documents said.

Stoops allegedly had four to six employees who worked for him.

Managers told Gomez they hadn't noticed anything physically wrong with Stoops, and noted that Stoops appeared very surprised when his boss once stopped by the office, documents said.

Employment records reportedly show that Stoops started the venture with Direct TV Home Services in February 2008.

The whole time Stoops was working, he submitted worker verification forms to the state saying he did not perform any work, paid or unpaid, court documents said. Then in late September 2008 after reportedly being caught by his former boss, Stoops turned in a claim saying that for the previous eight months he been working two hours a day, five days a week and getting paid $10 an hour, documents said.

The next month his form showed that he was earning $12 an hour.

Each check sent to Stoops included the warning that he was not to cash it if he had "returned to any type of work during the period paid," wrote Danpullo.

Yet Stoops cashed one check for more than $1,500 and 16 others over $250, for a total $23,714, she said.

-- Kristin M. Kraemer: 582-1531; kkraemer@tricityherald.com

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