Northeast Ohio man charged in $684K work comp/Social Security fraud scheme

Voicemail greeting exposes scheme

 

Thomas H. Cannell’s friendly voicemail greeting blew his cover, and now the fireplace salesman from northeast Ohio faces potential prison time and a bill for more than $684,000 for defrauding the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) and the Social Security Administration for decades.

The 62-year-old Cannell, a resident of Northfield Village in Summit County, was charged with theft of government funds and wire fraud Wednesday in the United States District Court in Cleveland after BWC discovered him concealing work income since 1993 while collecting $204,761 in permanent total disability benefits from BWC and $479,288 in Supplemental Security Income from Social Security.

“One of our claims specialists returned a phone call from Mr. Cannell in 2015 and heard the voicemail greeting, ‘Hello, you have reached Tom at Your Fireplace Shop,’” said Jim Wernecke, director of BWC’s special investigations department. “We took it from there.”

Wernecke said Cannell concocted a scheme to avoid being paid directly by the Summit County business owner. He said the owner had no knowledge of anything illegal going on and cooperated fully with BWC and Social Security investigators.

Sentencing for Cannell has not yet been scheduled. According to the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio’s office, the court will first review Cannell’s prior criminal record, if any, his role in the offense and other characteristics of the violation. In all federal cases, the sentence will not exceed the statutory maximum. In most cases, it will be less.

To report suspected workers’ compensation fraud, call 1-800-644-6292 or visit bwc.ohio.gov.

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For Cleveland man, there’s something about workers’ comp fraud

Habitual offender, already in prison, convicted for fifth time on fraud-related charges

Kenneth L. Gilmore doesn’t give up easily, even if the price means prison, probation and steep financial penalties.

After three previous convictions for crimes against the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, the 54-year-old Cleveland man found himself in court again on April 2, where he pleaded guilty to workers’ compensation fraud and other felonies in connection with deceiving hospitals to obtain prescription painkillers.

“Mr. Gilmore filed a legitimate injury claim with us in 2001, but since then he’s filed several fake claims to obtain narcotics and have us pay for it,” said Jim Wernecke, director of BWC’s special investigation department.

Taking a break from the Lorain Correctional Institution, where he’s serving a 27-month sentence on similar charges in a federal case, Gilmore pleaded guilty last week in the Lorain County Court of Common Pleas to 10 felonies. They include three counts of forgery, a fifth-degree felony (F5), three counts of tampering with records (F3), two counts of deception to obtain dangerous drugs (F2), one count of workers’ compensation fraud (F5) and one count of theft (F5). He was sentenced to 30 months in jail, to be served concurrently with his federal sentence, and ordered to pay BWC $6,075 in restitution.

Gilmore’s previous BWC-related convictions occurred in 2003, 2008 and 2010. The most recent case stems from 2013 and 2014, when he filed false applications for injured-worker benefits at a hospital emergency department in Lorain and at another in Twinsburg in Summit County. The companies he listed as his employers later confirmed Gilmore never worked for them. Gilmore confessed as much when interviewed by BWC agents.

In the federal case, Gilmore posed as an injured U.S. Marshal in 2017 at a Cleveland hospital to obtain narcotics. He was convicted of one count of impersonating a peace officer and five counts of obtaining dangerous drugs by deception.

To report suspected workers’ compensation fraud, call 1-800-644-6292 or visit bwc.ohio.gov.

Day care owner guilty of work comp fraud

BWC helps self-insured employer secure case

A Columbus day care owner and nursing assistant pleaded guilty Tuesday to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud after her former employer reported her to the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) for the crime.

Sharrounda Fuller, 42, must pay $11,514 in restitution to her former employer, a home health care company, and serve five years of probation, according to her sentence in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas.

“The employer is self-insured, so it was paying Ms. Fuller’s benefits out-of-pocket when it learned she had opened a day care center out of her home” said Jim Wernecke, director of BWC’s special investigations department. “After the company asked for our assistance in pursuing criminal charges, we discovered she also had worked for three other home health care businesses while collecting disability benefits.”

Wernecke said that while self-insured companies manage their own workers’ compensation programs, BWC will investigate alleged fraud cases on their behalf, because “workers’ comp fraud impacts all of us.”

“Workers’ comp benefits are for people who legitimately can’t work because they were injured on the job,” he said. “When people cheat the system, it just drives up the costs for all the honest stakeholders in the system.”

In other news, a northwest Ohio man who remodeled bathrooms, convenience stores and performed other construction work while collecting BWC benefits was found guilty Wednesday of a first-degree misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud.

A Franklin County judge ordered Scott J. Jones of Perrysburg to pay BWC $3,957 in restitution by Oct. 30 this year or face 45 days in jail. Jones paid $1,000 toward the restitution Wednesday morning.

To report suspected workers’ compensation fraud, call 1-800-644-6292 or visit bwc.ohio.gov.

Ohio Safety Congress & Expo for 2018: Another complete success

By Jeff Baker, Program Administrator, BWC Special Investigations Department

As part of our Special Investigations Department (SID) mission to effectively and proactively prevent losses to the workers’ compensation system and to deter, detect, investigate and prosecute workers’ compensation fraud, we recognize the importance of educating and informing our stakeholders about how they may join us to combat fraud.

That’s why we annually schedule and conduct dozens of fraud presentations to groups of internal and external stakeholders throughout the state.

On March 7 and 8, at the Ohio Safety Congress & Expo 2018, Shawn Fox, a SID special agent in charge, facilitated a workers’ compensation fraud presentation and Josh Grappy, a forensic computer specialist with the SID digital forensics unit, conducted a session on commercial uses, regulations and best practices for drones.

This annual event was another complete success. To a packed house, we shared techniques used to combat workers’ compensation fraud and to investigate safety violations. In the photo above SID Special Agent in Charge Shawn Fox walks attendees of a BWC Safety Congress & Expo through the steps he and his staff take when investigating a fraud allegation.

SID employees consistently promote fraud prevention strategies to stakeholders by means of social media, articles in periodicals, and presentations, such as participation in the annual Ohio Safety Congress & Expo, safety councils, MCOs and community-based organizations. These efforts educate, inform and build understanding of the BWC’s overall mission “to protect Ohio’s workers and employers through the prevention, care and management of workplace injuries and illnesses at fair rates.”

Since July 1, 2017, SID has conducted 51 fraud presentations describing and demonstrating how we accomplish our mission. Our SID employees share examples of successful cases and furnish all attendees with the means to detect and report suspected fraud.

We welcome requests for fraud presentations from all interested organizations. To schedule a fraud presentation, simply e-mail your request to Jeffrey.B.1@bwc.state.oh.us and we will promptly contact you to discuss your group’s event.

We hope you’ll contact us and look forward to meeting you soon!

For more details pertaining to our fraud prevention efforts, view our Annual Report here.

Graphic artist guilty of work comp fraud

Former Ohioan found working in Colorado

A former Ohioan injured on the job in 1991 pleaded guilty to workers’ compensation fraud March 5 after investigators found him working in Colorado while collecting injured workers’ benefits from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC).

John W. Bezusko, 50, must pay $19,530 in restitution to BWC and serve five years probation for the first-degree misdemeanor, according to his sentence March 5 in a Franklin County courtroom.

“We reviewed bank records, emails and other evidence showing Mr. Bezusko worked as a graphic designer for his home-based business while living in Grand Junction, Colorado,” said Jim Wernecke, director of BWC’s special investigations department (SID).

Also last week, a judge ordered Eric Payne of Hamilton, Ohio, to pay BWC $4,065 in restitution and serve two years probation after Payne pleaded guilty March 6 to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud. The judge also warned Payne that if he violates his probation, he must serve 11 months in prison.

SID investigators found Payne working as a building inspector and a temporary laborer for a mobile home park while collecting more than $8,000 from BWC in 2015.

In other news, SID secured two fraud convictions in February.

Charles Malone, of Lancaster, pleaded guilty Feb. 12 to a first-degree misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud after he was discovered working for a heating and air conditioning company while simultaneously collecting benefits. A Franklin County judge sentenced Malone to 180 days in jail, suspended for five years of community control (probation), under the condition that he maintains employment and pays $6,879 in restitution.

Kyle E. Goodwin, of Westlake, pleaded guilty Feb. 12 to a first-degree misdemeanor charge of workers’ compensation fraud after BWC investigators discovered him operating his sports video business while collecting disability benefits. A Franklin County judge ordered Goodwin to pay BWC $2,978 in restitution and serve 180 days in jail (suspended) and 12 months of community control.

To report suspected workers’ compensation fraud, call 1-800-644-6292 or visit bwc.ohio.gov.

Central Ohio man convicted of work comp fraud

Employment scheme implicates girlfriend

A Lancaster man must pay the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation nearly $7,000 in restitution after pleading guilty to workers’ compensation fraud Monday for a scheme that could land his girlfriend in court as well.

Charles Malone, 43, worked for a heating and air conditioning company for six months in 2016 while simultaneously collecting injured worker benefits from BWC. To hide his employment, he duped his employer into issuing his paychecks to his girlfriend in her name.

“He gave his employer a plausible explanation, and they fell for it,” said Jim Wernecke, director of BWC’s special investigations department. “As for the girlfriend, she could also face charges for her role in helping Mr. Malone defraud our agency.”

A judge in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas sentenced Malone to 180 days in jail, the maximum for a first-degree misdemeanor. He then suspended the jail sentence for five years of community control (probation) under the condition that Malone maintains employment and pays BWC $6,879 in restitution.

In other fraud news, a Cleveland-area man pleaded guilty on Monday to a first-degree misdemeanor charge of workers’ compensation fraud after BWC investigators discovered him operating his sports video business while collecting disability benefits.

A Franklin County judge ordered Kyle E. Goodwin, 47, of Westlake, to pay BWC $2,978 in restitution. He sentenced Goodwin to 180 days in jail (suspended) and 12 months of community control.

Acting on a tip, BWC investigators found Goodwin continued working for his business, OhioSportsNet LLC, in 2016 and 2017 after he claimed to be temporarily totally disabled. They found he earned $9,025 obtaining, editing and producing videos for various high school sports teams, sports clubs and high school athletes.

To report suspected workers’ compensation fraud, call 1-800-644-6292 or visit bwc.ohio.gov.

BWC secures three convictions in January

Two for work comp fraud, one for lapsed coverage

A funeral home worker and two cleaning company owners owe the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation $30,000 after pleading guilty to workers’ compensation fraud or related charges in January, the bureau’s first convictions of the new year.

“It’s thanks to honest citizens who report suspected fraud that we’re able to investigate many of our cases and stop this criminal activity in its tracks,” said Jim Wernecke, director of BWC’s special investigations department (SID). “The money we recover from people trying to cheat our system will go where it rightfully belongs — taking care of injured workers and helping employers create safer workplaces across this state.”

Those convicted include:

Oran Lewis of Columbus, Working and Receiving — Acting on a tip, investigators surveilled Lewis and uncovered evidence proving he worked for two funeral homes as a funeral procession escort on multiple occasions while collecting injured worker benefits from BWC.

Lewis pleaded guilty on Jan. 24 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a fifth-degree felony. He was sentenced to 180 days in jail, which was suspended for one year of community control (probation). He must pay $10,442 in restitution to BWC.

Amanda Joy Klapp of Hudson, Ohio, dba Amanda Joy Cleaning Company LLC, Under Reporting Payroll — BWC’s employer fraud team received an anonymous allegation that Klapp was operating her business without workers’ compensation coverage. Agents discovered that Klapp had employees when she opened her business in 2013, but she didn’t secure BWC coverage until 2015. She then intentionally under-reported her payroll to avoid paying a higher premium. When she stopped paying her premiums and her policy lapsed, she attempted to take out a new policy using her husband’s name to avoid paying the balance owed on her original policy.

Klapp pleaded guilty Jan. 9 to three counts of workers’ compensation fraud, all first-degree misdemeanors, in Stow Municipal Court in Summit County. A judge sentenced her to 180 days in jail with 150 days suspended and ordered her to serve 30 days of house arrest. The judge fined Klapp $500 on each count, then suspended half the total. The judge ordered Klapp to bring her workers’ compensation coverage into compliance within 30 days and to pay $14,000 in restitution to BWC.

Robert Settlemoir of Columbus, dba Pro Clean Carpet and Upholstery, Lapsed Coverage — Investigators found Pro Clean Carpet and Upholstery had been operating since 2011 without workers’ compensation coverage. BWC attempted to work with Settlemoir to bring his policy into compliance, but Settlemoir failed to take the necessary steps.

Settlemoir pleaded guilty on Jan. 25 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor. He was sentenced to 180 days in jail, suspended for two years of community control. Conditions of community control are that Settlemoir obtain employment and pay restitution of $5,482 to BWC.

To report suspected workers’ compensation fraud, call 1-800-644-6292 or visit bwc.ohio.gov.