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Orchard worker accused of worker compensation theft

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WATERVILLE — State investigators say an East Wenatchee man defrauded worker’s compensation benefits for more than a decade before his arrest last month.

Rodimiro Pacheco Cardenas, 37, faces trial April 24 on charges that he stole an estimated $39,000 in benefits while claiming disability under two different identities, even while he was working for orchard companies throughout the Wenatchee Valley.

Pacheco was arraigned Monday in Douglas County Superior Court, and pleaded not guilty through an interpreter.

Court records show Pacheco claimed injury after a car accident in 2000 and began receiving benefits the following year. In June 2011 an anonymous caller told the Department of Labor and Industries that Pacheco was continuing to work while receiving time-loss payments.

The probe turned up evidence that Pacheco was working under two driver’s licenses with slightly different names, and had worked for orcharding employers in Orondo, Cashmere, Quincy, Wenatchee and elsewhere since the third quarter of 2008. His attorney, his L&I claim manager and his physician all said they were unaware Pacheco had returned to work.

Pacheco was charged by warrant in 2012, but was only arrested Feb. 28, while working as a chef in Ephrata. In a separate warrant, L&I claims the overpayments and penalties Pacheco now owes the state amount to about $65,000.

In Chelan County, Pacheco skipped a court date after a 2008 guilty plea to a charge of cocaine possession, and must face deportation proceedings after his local cases are completed.

He remained in jail Tuesday on $25,000 bail.

Reach Jefferson Robbins at 509-664-7123 or . Follow him on Twitter at @JRobbinsWW.