- Associated Press - Thursday, September 18, 2014

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - A Utah man who suffered a knee injury while working at the Montana State Prison is charged with defrauding the state workers’ compensation fund by collecting disability benefits while running a construction company.

The attorney general’s office filed a felony theft charge against Benjie Leroy Christensen of Roosevelt, Utah, alleging he illegally collected over $97,000 in benefits from June 2008 until March of this year, the Independent Record (https://bit.ly/1udovai ) reported.

Charging documents filed Sept. 9 say Christensen, 51, started collecting permanent disability benefits in April 2004.

A registered nurse who visited Christensen in July 2011 due to a lack of information from his doctor said Christensen walked with a limp, but appeared otherwise healthy and had muscular arms. She also noted construction tools on his porch, court records said.

Christensen told the nurse he had a hard time sitting, but standing and walking helped, and that he couldn’t see a doctor in Salt Lake City because he couldn’t “handle the long ride.”

Ten months later, Christensen was evaluated by a Salt Lake City physician who reported Christensen told him he slept poorly due to pain and cramps in his legs, required help from his wife at least four times per night and spent most of the day lying down and lifted nothing heavier than a milk carton.

The Montana State Fund hired a private investigator in September 2013 who documented Christensen working full days at several construction sites in Vernal, Utah, over the next few months.

In January 2014, the state fund received a statement from Christensen saying he was unable to work at any job, couldn’t sit for long periods of time, was spending most of his life in bed and that his wife had to close her business to care for him.

A general contractor told investigators he had paid Christensen over $200,000 for subcontract work from 2010 to 2013 and that Christensen never appeared to be injured, court records said.

District Judge Kathy Seeley summoned Christensen to appear in her court on Oct. 2.

A phone call to a number listed for Christensen in the court documents was not immediately returned.

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Information from: Independent Record, https://www.helenair.com

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