Spokane contractor accused of fraud for running business while claiming disability

Spokane contractor accused of fraud for running business while claiming disability
Copyright 2019 KXLY.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without prior permission.
Deborah Steeneck did not appear in court for her arraignment Wednesday.  

A Spokane woman was charged with felony theft for allegedly running a construction business while claiming she was too disabled to work.

Deborah J. Steeneck, 59, is accused of stealing more than $11,000 in workers’ compensation cash benefits from the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries. She is charged with first-degree theft and was supposed to appear in Spokane County Superior Court Wednesday for her arraignment. 4 News Now was in the courtroom and she never showed.

Steeneck applied for workers’ comp benefits after injuring her back, shoulder and ribs in 1992 while working for a construction company, according to a release from L&I. She received L&I wage-replacement payments off and on until October 2015.

L&I said she was eligible to receive workers’ comp based on an assessment from her doctor and signed declarations that she was not working because of workplace injuries.

According to the release, in December 2015, a Spokane homeowner told L&I that Steenack had worked as a general contractor and laborer remodeling his home from May through October of that year. L&I said the homeowner had a falling-out with Steenack and found she was not registered as a contractor, and should not have been working since she was receiving workers’ comp benefits.

L&I said the whistleblower provided them with more than $20,000 in cashed checks he wrote Steeneck. He also provided photos and videos of her operating a backhoe on his property, a work calendar she left at his home, listing days she worked there, other job sites, medical appointments and employee names.

Several people who worked alongside Steeneck on the remodel told L&I they were her employees.
L&I closed Steeneck’s workers’ comp case in mid-October 2015. She reportedly also goes by Deborah J. Smith and Deborah J. Rasmussen.

The Washington State Attorney General’s Office is prosecuting the case.