Ex-police chief in eastern Washington, turned pinup model, charged with workers' comp fraud

PREVIOUS COVERAGE

OLYMPIA — Brenda Lynn Cavoretto was police chief of a small town in Grant County when a huge corpse fell on her during a police call. She suffered back, shoulder, and abdominal injuries and, she claimed, such severe psychological trauma she couldn’t work or be around other people.

Yet a state investigation found Cavoretto was actually working and volunteering in the world of pinup models – people who are photographed in sexy clothes and poses in the style of actresses Betty Grable and Rita Hayworth during World War II. Cavoretto did all this while telling the state she couldn’t work due to her on-the-job injuries.

Now the Snohomish County woman faces two charges of making false or misleading statements to collect more than $67,000 in workers’ compensation benefits from the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I).

Cavoretto, 47, of Gold Bar, is scheduled for arraignment on Monday, Oct. 19, in Thurston County District Court in Olympia. The Washington Attorney General’s Office is prosecuting the case based on an L&I investigation.

“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.”

L&I administers the state workers’ compensation insurance system, which helps injured workers heal and return to work.

The charges cover Cavoretto’s official declarations on L&I forms from September 2018 to February 2020 that she was unable to work in any employment.

Falling corpse

Cavoretto was police chief of Coulee City when she was hurt in February 2012. A domestic violence suspect had hanged himself in a barn, and as she tried to take down the body, the 285-pound corpse fell on her.

Later that year, she worked as a police officer in Soap Lake until May 2013, when she began receiving L&I wage-replacement payments and vocational services due to lingering effects from the falling corpse incident.

In May 2015, Cavoretto began seeing a psychologist. She told him she was having nightmares and was unable to leave the house, charging papers said, and the psychologist determined she was suffering from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

In the spring of 2019, however, an L&I case manager requested Cavoretto be investigated. He noted she had been receiving mental health treatment for four years without any improvement.

Called herself Tuff As Nailz, The Black Widow Bettie, Annabella Derringer

The L&I investigation found that from 2015 through early 2020, Cavoretto was photographing pinup models, organizing pinup pageants and fundraisers, and was often photographed herself under such names as Tuff As Nailz and The Black Widow Bettie.

She posted on social media that in 2015 she appeared as a model and photographer in 52 publications, including three magazine covers and three calendars, charging papers said.

Some of her pinup activities were through Annabella Derringer, a modeling, event, and photography business that she licensed with the state Department of Revenue in 2015.

Other activities were through her husband’s publication, Electric Pinup Magazine, and her nonprofit group, Electric Pinup Dolls, which raised money for veterans, firefighters, and law enforcement.

Last October, Cavoretto told a crowd at a Sultan bar and grill that Electric Pinup Dolls had become a “full-time job” and that the group raised $20,000 in 2018.

Statement from Brenda's Lawyer

Brenda's Lawyer said that the former Police Chief volunteered with charity programs to give back while recovering from traumatic injury.

"Brenda Cavoretto dedicated over 12 years to law enforcement, rising to the rank of Police Chief of Coulee City, Washington. While on duty, and performing her job, Ms. Cavoretto suffered a traumatic injury in February 2012, which involved a 285-pound dead body falling on top of her and causing significant physical injuries as well as affecting her mental health. As a result of these injuries, she has been prohibited from performing her former job by her treating medical doctors; a job she cannot perform until she is able to fulfill her duties to protect and serve" said Cavoretto's lawyer. 

"According to one of her treating doctors, Dr. Owen Bargreen, "There is a concern from the Department that she is acting in a fraudulent way. This is simply not the case, as it is something manufactured by the Department to have Brenda's time loss taken from her, so they won't need to pay her and will save themselves money." Contrary to the unsubstantiated and baseless allegations of the Department of Labor and Industries, Ms. Cavoretto has in the past volunteered to assist with charity programs to support her community as a way to give back. Ms. Cavoretto denies that she has been paid for her volunteering and asserts that no fraud has been committed. Ms. Cavoretto and her legal counsel believe that she will be cleared of any alleged wrongdoing." 

Tell L&I about fraud

If you suspect someone is cheating the workers’ comp system, contact L&I's Fraud division (Lni.wa.gov/Fraud) or call 1-888-811-5974.