A Bucks County corrections officer who said he was unable to work because of an injury has been charged with fraud after undercover investigators hired him to guide them on a fishing tour in northeastern Pennsylvania.
Carl Wayne Stokes, 51, faces charges of workers' compensation fraud, theft, and related offenses, court records show. A preliminary hearing in the case is scheduled for Oct. 29.
Stokes, of Upper Black Eddy, has received workers' compensation since November, when he filed for the benefit after an on-the-job injury at the county prison, according to a criminal complaint filed in the case. In May, Stokes re-applied for the benefits, saying his injury has caused him "permanent restrictions" on his movement and prevents him from returning to work.
However, Stokes began offering guided fishing tours on his Facebook page in January through the charter service Reel Adventures, the complaint said. Other, more recent posts detailed the work he's done as a fishing guide with the company, which he started with some friends in Northampton County.
Stokes' attorney, Dean Malik, said Wednesday that the situation has been "blown out of proportion" by prosecutors.
"They have taken this and transformed it to a claim where he is trying to defraud the county. None of that is true at all," Malik said, adding that Stokes has worked for the county for years and is eligible for retirement. "We are in the process of presenting the district attorney with more information than they had when they filed this in hopes to resolve this."
County detectives took Stokes up on his offer in June, paying him $240 to launch from Laceyville, Wyoming County. During their half-day trip on the Susquehanna River, Stokes told the detectives he was booked throughout the summer and showed no signs of restricted movement.
When the detectives confronted Stokes a month later, he defended himself by saying that he wasn't making significant money, "maybe $1,100 total," and that the money was chiefly used to pay for his gas and equipment, according to the criminal complaint.
Malik wouldn't elaborate on the nature of Stokes' injury, saying only that there was a judicial ruling that he is disabled, one supported by a "substantial volume of medical records."
"This is something that has a much lower level of physical intensity than being a correction officer, where you have to be prepared to fight at a moment's notice," Malik said. "There was never any intention to commit fraud or to hide anything."
During their probe, investigators found that Stokes had a previous compensation claim revoked under similar circumstances, when Facebook posts contradicted statements he had made about his inability to work, according to the complaint.