Linda Lashell Jordan was working as a meter reader when a dog viciously bit her right forearm. The attack was so traumatic, Jordan claimed, she fainted at the sight of dogs and could never go back to work.
It seems, though, that her bark was bigger than the bite. A Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) investigation found that Jordan owned and rescued dogs while receiving workers’ compensation benefits and claiming to suffer from “dog phobia.”
Now the Southwest Washington woman stands accused of faking the severity of her injuries to steal more than $186,000 in benefits from L&I.
Jordan, 52, of Cathlamet, is scheduled for arraignment Monday (Oct. 12) on one count of first-degree felony theft in Wahkiakum County Superior Court. She’s charged with wrongfully receiving nearly $163,000 in wage-replacement payments, plus more than $23,000 in vocational and medical services, from 2016 to 2019.
The Washington Attorney General’s Office is prosecuting the case based on L&I’s 14-month investigation into Jordan.
“The defendant’s alleged actions in this case are so blatant it’s astounding,” said Chris Bowe, assistant director of L&I’s Fraud Prevention and Labor Standards.
“We do not tolerate people who intentionally defraud the workers’ comp system. As our work in this case shows, we investigate and hold responsible people who abuse this crucial resource for legitimately injured workers.”
L&I administers the state workers’ compensation insurance system, which helps workers injured on the job heal and return to work.
Claim manager requests investigation
Jordan was working as a meter reader for the Pacific County Public Utility District when a dog bit her in March 2007. She filed an L&I injury claim, which was open for a time, closed, and then reopened in 2014 when her doctor said she fainted whenever she saw dogs and could not return to work, according to charging papers.
In addition, Jordan regularly declared in official documents that she wasn’t working because of her injury. Her declarations, coupled with her health care providers’ findings that she could not work, allowed Jordan to receive L&I payments to replace part of her lost wages.
L&I began its investigation in the summer of 2018 when a claim manager suspected something was amiss in Jordan’s case.
Snapshot with her dogs
During the inquiry, an L&I investigator pretended to be interested in buying bricks from Jordan and visited her at home. He was greeted by three small French bulldogs, which Jordan took inside, and he later watched her three large boxers swarm around her, according to charging papers.
Jordan did not faint or appear frightened to be with the dogs, and let the investigator photograph her with two of the boxers. She explained that she and her husband had been rescuing and fostering boxers for 30 years, and even warned the investigator that one of her recently rescued dogs might bite, charging papers said.
Facebook searches for dogs, driving against medical advice
The investigation also revealed that Jordan used several Facebook pages under her maiden name, an alias, and her husband’s name at various times to advertise dogs for sale and search for dogs to breed.
Though her health care provider advised her not to drive in case she saw a dog and fainted behind the wheel, investigators saw Jordan driving nine times in 2018 and 2019. Despite claiming her dog phobia made it difficult to be near dog-related services she sometimes drove past dog grooming and other dog-related businesses, making no attempt to avoid them.
Psychiatrist changes diagnosis to malingering
In August 2019, the case investigator showed photos and other surveillance materials to a psychiatrist who once treated Jordan.
Based on the new information, the psychiatrist changed Jordan’s previous diagnosis from post-traumatic stress disorder and dog phobia to malingering, charging papers said. He found that Jordan was actually capable of returning to work as a meter reader in September 2016.
Report workers’ comp cheaters
If you suspect someone is cheating the workers’ compensation system, contact L&I’s Fraud division (Lni.wa.gov/Fraud) or call 1-888-811-5974.