Celeste Chappell-Bates, of Columbus (Franklin County), pleaded guilty and was sentenced March 23 in Franklin County Court of Common Pleas on one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a fifth-degree felony.
A cross-match with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services led to the discovery that Chappell-Bates earned wages during time periods when she received BWC benefits. SID investigators obtained evidence that Chappell-Bates worked for four different companies during a two-year period while receiving multiple forms of BWC benefits.
Chappell-Bates was ordered to pay $10,000 in restitution within 30 days and was placed on community control for five years. She was also sentenced to serve 12 months at the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections, but that time is suspended as long as she complies with the terms of community control.
Scott Lyke, of Mantua (Portage County), was sentenced Feb. 24 in Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas on one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a fifth-degree felony. He pleaded guilty to the charge in January.
The intelligence unit of BWC’s Special Investigations Department received a report from the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. It listed drivers who received commercial motor vehicles safety inspections. The report indicated that Lyke received an inspection in January 2012 while driving a truck for a transportation company. Using surveillance, records and interviews, investigators confirmed that Lyke returned to work as a truck driver for multiple employers between 2009 and 2013 while receiving multiple forms of BWC benefits for a prior workplace injury.
Lyke was sentenced to two years of probation and was ordered to repay $36,903 in restitution to BWC. If he fails to follow the conditions of his probation, Lyke could be sentenced to serve up to nine months in prison.
Frank Palesh, of Reno, Nevada (formerly of Willoughby, Lake County), pleaded guilty Feb. 26 in Franklin County Court of Common Pleas to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a fifth-degree felony.
BWC received an allegation that Palesh might be starting an auto repair business, but investigators instead discovered through records and interviews that Palesh returned to employment as an owner and operator of an eBay.com online store while receiving temporary total disability benefits between 2009 and 2012. Injured workers are not permitted to work while receiving this type of benefit.
Palesh was sentenced to serve one year in prison, which was suspended for five years of community control. He was ordered to repay $42,313.09 in restitution to BWC. Palesh also served 29 days in jail for failure to appear in court.
Kerry R. Casto, of Mingo Junction (Jefferson County), pleaded guilty March 11 in Franklin County Court of Common Pleas on one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor.
BWC received an allegation that Casto might be working while receiving workers’ compensation disability benefits. Investigators confirmed that Casto knowingly performed mechanical work for cash, and worked for a truck repair business, while receiving disability benefits from BWC.
Casto paid $3,344.04 in restitution to BWC prior to sentencing. He was sentenced to serve one day in jail and was given credit for one day served.
Daniel Jucikas, of Munroe Falls (Summit County), pleaded guilty and was sentenced Feb. 18 in Franklin County Court of Common Pleas on one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor.
Investigators confirmed that he worked while receiving various types of workers’ compensation benefits in 2012 and 2013. Jucikas had returned to work for his business, Jucikas Computer Service Inc. Investigators conducted surveillance, and recorded footage of Jucikas going to see his medical provider and meeting a client on the same day.
Jucikas was ordered to pay $21,176.02 in restitution to BWC, fined $500 and ordered to pay court costs. He was also sentenced to one year of probation.
BWC’s Special Investigations Department speaks to groups about workers’ compensation fraud year-round. You can hear how to identify if workers’ comp fraud is happening to you from our special investigations unit during the 2015 Ohio Safety Congress & Expo later this month, and there’s still time to sign up.
The largest regional safety and health conference in the U.S., OSC15 will be held March 31 to April 2. The event aims to help Ohio employers prevent workplace injuries and achieve better outcomes for injured workers.
The April 1 session, “Workers’ Compensation Fraud: Do You Know If It’s Happening to You?” will include workers’ compensation fraud statistics, the process for tipsters to identify and report suspected fraud, and case summaries of recently prosecuted subjects.
An April 2 session, ‘Safety Violation Investigations,” will cover BWC’s role in investigating potential safety code violations.
A full schedule of sessions is available by clicking here.
There’s no charge for Ohio employers and their employees to attend OSC15. An Ohio workers’ compensation policy number is required to register.
Register for OSC15 today!
Columbus – Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) Administrator/CEO Steve Buehrer announced today that 13 individuals were convicted of, or pleaded guilty to, charges related to defrauding Ohio’s workers’ compensation system in February 2015. These court actions are the result of investigations conducted by BWC’s Special Investigations Department (SID).
“Several allegations this month were generated by the Special Investigations Department’s intelligence unit, which reviews BWC data for potential red flags,” Buehrer said. “Their efforts help uncover potential fraud by claimants, medical providers and employers.”
The following is a sampling of cases that resulted in guilty pleas or convictions during February:
Bonnie Gajoch (Elyria, Lorain County) was entered into the Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney’s Diversion program Feb. 6 for 24 months to pay $14,944.40 in restitution to BWC. SID’s intelligence unit initiated an allegation after a data cross match showed that Gajoch was possibly working while collecting BWC disability benefits. Investigators found that Gajoch returned to work as a nurse at an assisted living community while receiving temporary total disability benefits between May and September 2012. Investigators also found Gajoch continued operating her own home health care business, Vital Angels, beginning in June 2012 while receiving temporary total benefits. Injured workers are not permitted to work while receiving this type of benefit. A picture of Gajoch is available here.
Jacqueline Horn doing business as J&J Enterprise Services (Independence, Cuyahoga County) pleaded guilty as part of a plea deal Feb. 23 in Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor. BWC received an allegation that Horn, owner of Jackie & Jackie Enterprise Services, may have submitted false BWC coverage certificates to the Broadview Heights Building and Zoning Department. Investigators found that Horn was responsible for altering or falsifying nine BWC certificates of coverage between 2006 and 2012. Horn used the false certificates to complete a requirement for conducting business within the city. She accepted full responsibility when interviewed by investigators. Horn was fined $500 and was ordered to pay court costs.
Carman Gargano doing business as C&C Investors (Cleveland, Cuyahoga County) pleaded no contest as part of a plea deal Feb. 18 in City of Cleveland Municipal Court to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor. SID’s intelligence unit identified that C&C Investors, doing business as the Pit Stop Doughnut Shop, had again let its coverage lapse. Gargano worked with investigators to bring coverage back into compliance, but the Pit Stop’s policy lapsed again in 2011. Gargano failed to take necessary steps to come back into compliance with the law. Gargano was sentenced to 180 days of incarceration, which was suspended, and was placed on five years of probation. Gargano must follow through with a payment plan and reinstate the workers’ compensation policy for the business, or else the suspended incarceration could be imposed.
Cora Beach (Springfield, Clark County) pleaded and was found guilty Feb. 26 in Franklin County Court of Common Pleas of one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a fifth-degree felony. SID identified that Beach was possibly receiving wages while collecting BWC disability. Investigators found that Beach worked for a Dayton printing company while collecting more than $9,000 in temporary total disability between January and April 2013. A pre-sentence investigation was ordered, and sentencing was set for April 23.
Paul Smith (Jackson Center, Shelby County) pleaded and was found guilty Feb. 17 in Franklin County Court of Common Pleas of one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a fifth-degree felony. A data cross match showed that Smith was possibly working while collecting BWC disability benefits, and investigators found that he was working as a restaurant cook between March and July 2013 while collecting more than $4,000 in temporary total disability benefits. A pre-sentence investigation was ordered and sentencing was set for April 2.
To report suspected workers’ compensation fraud, call 1-800-644-6292 or visit bwc.ohio.gov.