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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 28, 2013
Spokane restaurant owner charged with theft of nearly $250,000 in workers’ comp payments

Courtesy of Dept. of Labor and Industries

TUMWATER — A Spokane restaurant owner faces a felony theft charge alleging she defrauded the state of nearly $250,000 in workers’ compensation benefits over eight years while claiming she could not work.

Upon investigation, the Department of Labor & Industries found Wanitta Racicot, 69, was cooking, busing tables and performing other duties at a restaurant that she co-owns.

The Attorney General’s Office recently charged Racicot, of Spokane Valley, with one count of first-degree theft in Spokane County Superior Court. Racicot is scheduled to enter her plea to the charge on Sept. 4.

According to court documents, Racicot filed for workers’ compensation with L&I in 2001, claiming she injured both of her arms while working at a restaurant. After opening her claim, she regularly signed official documents stating she was not employed and was unable to work due to her injury.

In August 2011, L&I launched an investigation after Racicot’s case raised red flags to a department employee, who was examining whether Racicot should be referred for a pension.

During the investigation, Racicot told an investigator that her hands remained so damaged that she could not button shirts or put on earrings, court documents said. The same month, an investigator witnessed Racicot carrying groceries, busing heavy dishes, scrubbing the bar counter and doing other tasks at her Spokane business, Broadway Bar and Grill, on multiple days.

In addition, Racicot’s current and former employees and business associates told the investigator that she had been working at the restaurant for more than five years, and one employee said she had been doing so since at least 2001.

The charge alleges Racicot fraudulently received $249,267 in “time-loss” benefits for replacement of lost wages from March 2003 until August 2011.

First-degree theft carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison plus a $20,000 fine and costs.

Broadcast Version:

A Spokane restaurant owner has been charged with felony theft after receiving nearly a quarter-million dollars in workers’ compensation benefits over the course of eight years. Wanitta Racicot (pronounced rass-koh) claimed in 2001 that she suffered on-the-job arm injuries that made it impossible to do restaurant work.

A Department of Labor & Industries investigator, however, filmed Racicot carrying groceries, busing heavy dishes, scrubbing the bar counter and doing other tasks in 2011 at the Broadway Bar and Grill, which she co-owns. Current and former employees said Racicot had been working there for years. The Attorney General’s Office recently charged Racicot with one count of first-degree theft in Spokane County Superior Court.

For media information:

Debby Abe, L&I, debby.abe@lni.wa.gov, 360-902-6043

Janelle Guthrie, AGO, janelleg@atg.wa.gov, 360-586-0725

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