A Spokane man is accused of workers’ compensation fraud, stealing about $113,271 in benefits while operating his own business after claiming a workplace injury, according to a Washington State Department of Labor & Industries news release.
Doyle R. Wheeler, 36, claims a pickup truck backed into him at his workplace, Toby’s Body and Fender, in 2008 and he was unable to work due to those injuries. He collected benefits from 2008 to 2011, but those benefits stopped while the Department of Labor & Industries investigated Wheeler.
The Spokesman Review's Valley Voice featured Wheeler in a 2011 story about his pen making business where Wheeler said he started his business after being unable to work.
Investigators mentioned that story in their news release adding he was succeeding at his businesses while receiving those benefits.
Video taken during the investigation shows no sign of injury after the accident, the news release said. Wheeler would arrive to his physical therapy appointments with the apperance of a sagging shoulder and stiff movements, but would move with ease shortly after he left the appointment, the release added.
They suspect he operated the following businesses while receiving benefits: The Pensmith, Ammo Head Design and Ammo Head Hydrographics.
Wheeler was arraigned in Spokane County Superior Court last week and faces a maximum sentence of ten years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000. The court could also order him to repay those benefits collected through fraud.
Wheeler declined to speak with The Spokesman-Review, but his attorney, Phillip Wetzel, said Wheeler is looking for his day in court and is confident he’ll be vindicated.
The manager of L&I's fraud prevention and compliance program, Elizabeth Smart, said this type of fraud damaged their system and steals from taxpayers, employers and injured workers who deserve benefits, the news release said.
According to court records filed in 2012, Wheeler faces suits from Razor Capital LLC for money owed. In 2010, he filed for injuctive relief against the Freedom Debt Center. A prior version of this story mentioned a bankruptcy case out of Deer Park of $1,282,433 that was not related to Wheeler.
(Photo above: In a February 2011 photo Doyle Wheeler holds a display box of pens he created. Wheeler uses spent bullet casings, deer antlers and other materials to create pens and knives. )