Gold Bar, WA (WorkersCompensation.com) – A former small-town police chief’s arraignment on two counts of making false statements was delayed on Monday when prosecutors from the Washington Attorney General’s office failed to show up for court.
The charges against Brenda Lynn Cavoretto stem from a months’ long investigation into whether or not she was lying when she told state officials with Washington Labor & Industries that she couldn’t work and couldn’t be around people because of injuries she received in 2012.
Cavoretto was serving as the police chief in Coulee City, Washington, population 562, when she was injured on the job, eventually saying she was incapable of returning to work. But authorities believe she wasn’t honest about her injuries, given her newfound career as a pinup girl, and want the courts to make her pay back wage-replacement benefits she received.
According to a press release from the Washington L&I, in February 2012, Cavoretto was responding to a call about a domestic violence suspect who had hung himself in his barn. As she was attempting to remove the body, the 285-pound corpse fell on her, injuring her back, shoulder and abdomen.
Kyle Foreman, public information officer with the Grant County Sheriff’s Office said Coulee City contracted with the county to provide law enforcement services sometime after 2012, but he was unsure of the date. He did say it was after Cavoretto left the department though. It wasn’t immediately clear if Cavoretto left the department because of her injuries.
After filing a workers’ compensation claim for the incident, she went to work for the Soap Lake Police Department until May 2013, when she started getting wage-replacement benefits and rehabilitation services to deal with having the corpse fall on her.
Chief Ryan Cox with the Soap Lake Police Department did not immediately return calls for comment.
After two years on wage-replacement benefits, court documents said, a psychologist diagnosed Cavoretto with post-traumatic stress disorder following her reports that she was having nightmares and unable to leave the house.
In reality though, officials said, Cavoretto was posing as a pinup girl and attending events in costume to raise money for charities.
Going under the stage name “Tuff Az Nails”, the name of Cavoretto’s nail salon that she opened while serving as police chief court documents said, and “The Black Widow Bettie,” Cavoretto appeared in her husband’s publication, Electric Pinup Magazine. Additionally, Cavoretto formed a modeling, event and photography business in 2015 called Annabella Derringer for which she filed income taxes, as well as a nonprofit group “Electric Pinup Dolls, that raised money for veterans, firefighters and law enforcement.
“At Electric Pinup Dolls, our mission is to empower women to enrich their lives and help those who have risked their lives providing safety to our nation and our communities,” the group described itself on its Instagram account. “Through fundraising and community outreach, we not only are able to provide assistance to our veterans, first responders and our communities, we also encourage women of all walks of life to see the beauty inside themselves. We bring the vintage style into the modern world, the values of family first and through hope in the form of acceptance, self-preservation and healing as well as giving back. Through community service and giving back we empower each other to see that true beauty comes from your heart and to service of others. Our goal is to enrich the lives and provide services to our veterans and first responders, but to enrich the lives of all women to reach their true potential.”
As Black Widow Bettie, Cavoretto often tagged her photos #lifeoutoftheblue, an apparent reference to life after police work.
Cavoretto did not respond to requests for comment on her Instagram profiles and her Facebook pages.
Despite telling officials that she could not work and could not be around other people because of the trauma she underwent, it appears she didn’t have much problem posting her work and social life online. According to her Facebook page, as recently as October 10, she organized an event to gather food donations. And according to her Twitter feed, she attended Pain In the Grass in 2016, a daylong music festival in Seattle, even going so far as to have a selfie taken with the band Windowpane.
Officials said in 2019, an L&I case manager noticed Cavoretto didn’t seem to be getting any better, despite more than four years of therapy. Investigators found that Cavoretto was indeed working as a pinup girl, at one-point bragging to a crowd at a local bar that it was her full-time job and that she had raised more than $20,000 in 2018.
Recently, as part of the Miss Black Widow Vintage Halloween Pinup Contest, contestants paid $20 each to submit pictures of themselves in costume as part of the contest. Winners received “a Crown and Sash along with some fun pinup inspired gifts!!”, according to the Facebook Event’s Page. More than 35 women participated. The page said they raised more than $600 for “community outreach.”
Officials charged Cavoretto with two counts of making false or misleading statements, and are looking to collect the more than $67,000 in workers’ compensation benefits Cavoretto received between September 2018 and February 2020.
“Injured workers are required to tell us about all of their work and volunteer activities,” said Chris Bowe, assistant director for L&I’s Fraud Prevention and Labor Standards division. “People who don’t tell the truth can be ordered to pay back their benefits and, in the worst cases, face criminal prosecution.”
When asked what the response in Grant County had been to the charges against Cavoretto, the sheriff’s office’s foreman said he had not heard any comments about it one way or the other.
Dan Jones, communication consultant for the Washington Attorney General’s office, said this year, eight cases of workers’ compensation fraud have been turned over to the Attorney General’s office, six of them related to claimant fraud.
Judge Kalo Wilcox found probable cause during the hearing, and Cavoretto pleaded not guilty. A court date will be set at a later time.