Interpreters face court order over mileage reimbursement bills

By Bryan Cohen | May 22, 2014

TUMWATER, Wash. (Legal Newsline) - Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson's office obtained a court order on Tuesday that will require two Mount Vernon-area women to repay the state thousands of dollars from an alleged false billing scam.

Gloria Garcia and her daughter, Gloria Gonzalez, ran separate businesses in which they interpreted for injured Spanish-speaking workers at medical appointments. Garcia and Gonzalez allegedly padded the mileage reimbursement bills they sent to the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I).

Garcia allegedly often charged L&I for more than 500 miles in a single day, claiming she started her trips from the address of a Seattle sports clinic. Gonzalez allegedly claimed she started her trips from Marysville, which is located more than 30 miles away from her home. Garcia and Gonzalez were L&I's top billers for interpreter mileage reimbursement.

"Interpreters serve an important role when Spanish-speaking employees are hurt on the job, but committing fraud and taking advantage of vulnerable injured workers is unacceptable," Elizabeth Smith, the assistant director of L&I Fraud Prevention and Labor Standards, said. "Abuses like this are bad for all of us and can result in higher workers' comp costs for employers and employees alike."

Garcia and Gonzalez were each recently sentenced to 30 days in jail, though they were permitted to serve the time on electronic home monitoring. Thurston County Superior Court Judge Gary Tabor ordered Garcia to repay L&I more than $28,000 and Gonzalez to pay more than $16,000, in addition to court costs.

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