Washington’s Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) charges that Doyle Ronald Wheeler, 36, of Spokane, Wash., collected benefits from 2008 to 2011 on a workplace-injury claim for a neck and back injury. L&I stopped benefit payments after an investigation determined that Wheeler was operating his own businesses – The Pensmith, Ammo Head Design and Ammo Head Hydrographics – while receiving the workers’ compensation benefits.
“The Spokane Valley Voice wrote a story on Wheeler citing his business success while he was receiving time-loss benefits," commented Elizabeth Smith, manager of L&I’s Fraud Prevention and Compliance Program. "This kind of fraud damages the system. It steals from everyone – taxpayers, employers who pay workers’ compensation premiums and the injured workers who really deserve benefits.”
Wheeler claimed he was unable to work after a slow-moving pickup truck backed into him at his workplace, Toby’s Body and Fender. A videotape of the accident showed Wheeler exhibiting no indication of injury after contact with the vehicle. Videotapes taken after the accident by L&I investigators show Wheeler arriving for his physical therapy appointments, where his shoulder appears to sag and his movements stiffen as he approaches the office. Shortly after his physical therapy appointments, Wheeler resumes moving around with ease.
Wheeler was arraigned in Spokane County Superior Court, and faces a maximum sentence of up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000. The court also could order him to repay the more than $113,000 in benefits collected through fraud.