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Business scammed state out of more than $600,000

November 26, 2013 J

MOUNTLAKE TERRACE — A Mountlake Terrace man faces years in prison for scamming the state out of more than $600,000 through his language interpretation business.

Philip Ward and his wife Kitzia Huerta formerly owned Hispanic Voices in Mountlake Terrace. The business had a contract with the state Department of Labor and Industries to provide interpreters to Spanish-speaking workers with injury claims. The interpreters were to be used during medical and vocational appointments.

Investigators alleged that Ward and Huerta overbilled the state for years. Court documents say that the couple also operated other businesses in direct conflict with the state contract.

Ward on Monday pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree theft in Thurston County Superior Court. His wife pleaded guilty last month. They are scheduled to be sentenced next year.

The couple agreed to pay back the tens of thousands of dollars that they defrauded from the state. The details were hammered out under a plea agreement reached with prosecutors from the state Attorney General’s Office.

Labor and Industries fraud unit began investigating the Snohomish County business about four years ago.

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