A former Pasco grocery store employee must repay $11,143 to the state for falsely claiming she was injured while chasing a shoplifter.
Sulia Hernandez Carranza, 51, of Richland, collected workers’ compensation benefits for one year before admitting to her boss that she wanted medical treatment for a preexisting knee problem.
Carranza entered an Alford plea this week in Franklin County Superior Court to second-degree theft, a felony.
The Alford plea means she denied committing the crimes but believed prosecutors had enough evidence for a jury to find her guilty.
“While I personally believe I am innocent of the charge, I have reviewed the police reports and defense investigation reports … and I want to take advantage of the prosecution’s plea offer,” Carranza wrote in her plea statement.
Judge Bruce Spanner sentenced her to 30 days in jail. He allowed her to do the time on electronic home monitoring or a work crew because this was her first offense.
The case was prosecuted by the Washington Attorney General’s Office based on an investigation by the Department of Labor & Industries.
Court documents show Carranza was a loss prevention specialist in May 2014 when she reported being injured during a foot chase. The name of the grocery store was not disclosed.
The workers’ comp claim provided medical care for the workplace injury, and the store let Carranza keep working with medical restrictions while her knee was being treated, documents said.
She reportedly apologized to her employer in April 2015 for filing the false claim.
The state department said Carranza took more than $11,000 in benefits, which includes $7,200 for medical treatment and nearly $3,900 that the department reimbursed the store for keeping Carranza on light duty.
“Workers’ compensation is intended to help employees heal from on-the-job injuries so that they can return to work,” said Elaine Fischer, an L&I spokeswoman. “Claiming workers’ comp benefits under fraudulent circumstances is against the law, and we are aggressively looking for it.”
“We hope people will let us know if they see this happening,” Fischer added.