Richland man sentenced over L&I claim

A Richland man will spend 45 days on electronic home monitoring for bilking the state of nearly $24,000 by collecting checks for an on-the-job injury while continuing to work.

Alexander Alfred Stoops, 36, entered a modified guilty plea Monday in Benton County Superior Court to one count of false information by a claimant.

Stoops received time-loss compensation from the Washington Department of Labor & Industries after claiming that he was unable to work because of a lower back injury, which occurred at a Walla Walla job site in January 2008. Yet, over the following nine months he worked as a sub-contractor with another company installing satellite dishes -- a job prosecutors said required the injured Stoops to lift 30- to 50-pound boxes.

The Alford plea means he denied committing the crime but believed prosecutors had enough evidence to convict him. He opted to accept the offer to the reduced felony charge, with dismissal of one count of first-degree theft and 16 counts of second-degree theft.

"I do not believe that I have done anything wrong," Stoops wrote in his plea statement. He did not address the court Monday.

The 45-day sentence was recommended by Assistant Attorney General Susan Sackett DanPullo of Seattle, who told the court that Stoops only had one prior felony for forgery in 2003. The court had the option to give Stoops up to 90 days behind bars.

The Attorney General's Office handled the case because the victim was a state agency.

Judge Robert Swisher agreed with the sentence, and also ordered Stoops to pay $23,714 in restitution to the department.

According to court documents, Stoops worked as a cable and internet installer when he was injured. He filed an L&I claim and was granted benefits because he couldn't work.

In September 2008, a state investigator got word that Stoops was working. Stoops' employer at the time of his injury reported that Stoops had been working for several months for DirectTV Home Services in Pasco, and even showed the investigator a new business card for Stoops, documents said.

Stoops started that venture in February 2008 and reportedly had four to six employees who worked for him. DirectTV managers in Pasco told investigator Reynaldo Gomez they hadn't noticed anything physically wrong with Stoops, court documents said.

Between Feb. 21 and late September 2008, Stoops submitted work verification forms to the state saying he did not perform any work, paid or unpaid.

After reportedly being caught by his former boss, Stoops turned in a claim saying he would been working a couple of hours a day for $10 an hour, followed by another form in October saying he earned $12 an hour, documents said.

Stoops received 17 checks over that time, each with the warning that he wasn't to cash them if he had "returned to any type of work during the period paid."

His conviction is for knowingly giving false information required in his L&I claim, resulting in benefits to which he wasn't entitled.

Stoops must report to jail by Feb. 2 to schedule his participation in the home monitoring program.

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