Washington Auto Repair Owner Caught 2nd Time in Workers’ Comp Scam

July 29, 2022

A Kennewick, Washington, business owner pleaded guilty to a felony for failing to provide workers’ compensation insurance for his employees for the second time.

Benton-Franklin Superior Court Judge Norma Rodriguez sentenced Rodney Eugene Dietrich to 30 days of electronic home monitoring, after Dietrich, 47, pleaded guilty to doing business without workers’ comp.

Dietrich employed two men at his auto repair shop, Rod’s Cars, in Kennewick, from November 2017 to May 2019, but he failed to provide state workers’ comp.

One employee reported being paid in cash under the table, and the other said he traded his labor for auto parts or other items, according to an investigation by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries.

This is the second time Dietrich has been charged for illegal workers’ comp practices. In 2016, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor version of the same offense.

Dietrich operated the auto shop at the same location from at least 2004. However, he changed its name, business structure, and business license number three times after each one fell behind on workers’ comp payments.

After repeated notices and warnings, L&I revoked his workers’ comp on all three business entities. Despite the revocations, an L&I investigation in 2014 reportedly found he was employing at least two workers at the shop.

In 2016, Dietrich pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of doing business without workers’ comp. In November 2017, L&I employees driving by Dietrich’s auto shop reportedly noticed the business appeared to have workers again.

Investigators staked out the shop for a year-and-a-half and recorded Dietrich and employees working there, leading to the recent criminal case.

Along with facing time for the criminal case, the he owes L&I more than $40,000 in late premiums, interest and penalties, according to department records. He also owes more than $2,200 in wages and penalties for failing to pay an employee in 2013.

The Washington State Office of the Attorney General prosecuted both cases based on L&I investigations.