Real estate broker sentenced to repay $86,000 in workers' comp scam

December 20, 2019

Everett - A Bothell man who worked as a commercial real estate broker while illegally taking disability payments must repay the state more than $86,000 and spend 60 days in detention.

 

Robert K.J. Choe, 65, pleaded guilty this week to attempted second-degree theft. Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Eric Lucas sentenced Choe to 60 days in jail, but is allowing him to serve the time under electronic home monitoring.

 

The judge also ordered Choe to serve two years on probation and repay the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) $86,484. That’s how much he wrongfully took in wage-replacement payments while claiming he was too disabled from a workplace injury to hold a job.

 

The Washington Attorney General’s Office prosecuted the case based on an L&I investigation.

 

Claim manager requests investigation

Choe originally injured his back in 2014 while working as a cook. Multiple physician assessments found he was too injured to work and Choe repeatedly signed declarations that he wasn’t working. As a result, L&I provided medical coverage and ongoing payments to replace part of his salary.

 

In 2017, an L&I claim manager asked investigators to check if his daily activities matched his described medical conditions.

 

The investigation determined Choe had in fact been working as a licensed real estate broker from as early as 2015. In 2016, he changed his name from Kyeong Jin Choe to Robert K.J. Choe, and used the new name in his business, according to court records.

 

Undercover video, exaggerating injury

Investigators seized company and sales documents listing Choe as the buyer’s or seller’s agent for multiple commercial properties. At one point, investigators sent him an email inquiring about a $1.1 million commercial property he was listing, and received a response requesting a meeting at his office in Lynnwood.

 

Videotaped evidence collected over several months suggested that Choe exaggerated his injuries. In July 2017, for instance, investigators filmed Choe as his wife helped him walk from the car to his doctor’s office, taking small steps and stumbling. Later that day, they taped him driving to his office and to the store, where he walked normally without assistance and carried a large item through the parking lot.

 

In the fall of 2017, L&I ended Choe’s wage-replacement checks after an evaluator determined he wasn’t trying to exert himself in an evaluation of his physical abilities.