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Thurston County man caught in bar fight accused of workers' comp fraud

A Yelm man received $1,000 for an injury he claimed he got on the job, all while boasting online about a bar fight that investigators say caused the injury.

YELM, Wash. — A Thurston County man is accused of passing a bar fight off as a workplace accident after investigators found he filed a fraudulent claim to receive medical compensation for the injury.

Yelm resident Chuck Riccio filed a claim in fall 2018 that alleged he hurt his hand while pulling apart a shower unit at his job at a bathware manufacturer. Multiple witnesses confirmed Riccio got into a bar fight and hurt the hand after punching his opponent.

Riccio received more than $1,000 in benefits to treat the injury.

On Friday, a Thurston County judge issued an arrest warrant for Riccio. He was expected to be charged with second-degree theft but did not show up to court.

“It’s truly outrageous when someone blatantly lies and files a fake claim to try to game the workers’ comp system,” Assistant Director for Fraud Prevention & Labor Standards Chris Bowe said in a press release. “We’re here to help injured workers who are legitimately injured on the job so they can recover and return to work.”

RELATED: Shelton oyster harvester must repay state $32,000 after faking injury

"This case, from the beginning, just smelled bad," said Randy Littlefield, Chief of Investigations for Labor & Industries.

Littlefield said social media pictures and posts have turned into a valuable place for investigators to look for evidence.

”Everyone has a camera in their pocket. Everybody's taking a video of and people are a little self-absorbed," said Littlefield, "So they want to post a lot about themselves, so it’s great for us."

Evidence obtained by investigators details text messages sent by Riccio indicating he knew exactly what he was doing, at one point texting a photo of his bandaged hand with the message, “Now L&I (Labor and Industries) will cover it.” 

Riccio also posted on Facebook on Aug. 27 that he got into a bar fight.

If you suspect someone is cheating the workers’ comp system, contact Labor and Industry’s Fraud division or call 1-888-811-5974.