BWC nets nine fraud convictions in March

The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation secured nine convictions in March of workers and employers who cheated, or attempted to cheat, the agency out of funds reserved for legitimately injured workers and workplace safety efforts.

BWC’s Special Investigations Department has secured 38 convictions this calendar year, as of March 31. Last month’s cases include:

Ronnie Simmons Jr. of Cleveland, dba Simmons Adult Care, Lapsed Coverage
Simmons pleaded guilty March 29 to a minor misdemeanor count of attempted workers’ compensation fraud for failing to carry proper workers’ compensation insurance. Following a judge’s order, he paid his outstanding balance of $3,587 to BWC.

Michelle Litton of Marysville, Working and Receiving
Investigators found Litton operating a pet grooming business out of her home while receiving BWC benefits. She pleaded guilty March 28 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor. She was sentenced to one day of jail time and given credit for time served.

Charles Knight of Cuyahoga Falls, Working and Receiving
Investigators found Knight working as an independent contractor and construction laborer while receiving BWC benefits. Knight pleaded guilty March 23 to workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor. He paid $3,731 in restitution to BWC.

Jennifer Garner of Toledo, Working and Receiving
Garner pleaded guilty March 21 to a first-degree misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud. A judge ordered Garner, who was found working while receiving disability benefits, to pay BWC $7,645 in restitution and sentenced her to five years of community control and a suspended jail term of four months. Garner paid $1,000 prior to her guilty plea.

James Miller of Fulton County, Attempted Workers’ Compensation Fraud
Miller pleaded guilty March 17 to a first-degree misdemeanor count of attempted workers compensation fraud after he and his sister were found withdrawing and sharing their late father’s BWC cash benefits. A judge sentenced him to a suspended sentence of six months in jail and a $100 fine. His sister, Cecilia Williams, was sentenced in February to two years of community control, a suspended jail term of seven months and ordered to take a theft education course.

Patrick Fachman of Columbus, False Claim
Fachman pleaded guilty March 14 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor, for filing two false injured worker’s claims against a former employer. He was sentenced to one day in jail time and given credit for time served.

Jamie Miller of Columbus, Falsified Coverage Application
Miller obtained workers’ compensation coverage for a painting business she purported to own. But investigators found she was merely trying to obtain a valid BWC certificate for her husband, Shannon Miller, a painter whose coverage had lapsed. Jamie Miller pleaded guilty March 14 to one count of criminal mischief, a first-degree misdemeanor. She was given credit for two days jail time served. She must complete 24 hours of community service in lieu of fines and court costs.

Daniel Burch of Akron, dba Check Mart, Lapsed Coverage
Burch failed to cooperate with the BWC Employer Compliance Department that was helping him to reinstate BWC coverage that had been lapsed since 2008. Burch pleaded guilty March 13 to failure to comply, a second-degree misdemeanor. He was ordered to bring his policy into compliance with the law.

John Lewis of Cincinnati, Working and Receiving
Already serving time in an Indiana prison for a burglary conviction, Lewis pleaded guilty March 9 to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud and was sentenced to nine months incarceration, to be served concurrent with his Indiana sentence. BWC investigators discovered Lewis had been working for a Wendy’s restaurant while collecting $32,532 in BWC benefits from June 2013 to August 2014.

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

Coal miner digs himself a hole in fraud scheme

A former coal miner from northeast Ohio owes the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) more than $40,000 after BWC investigators found him creating phony employment records to secure BWC cash benefits.

Steven R. Kornbau, 50, of Mahoning County, pleaded guilty March 28 to a fifth-degree felony charge of workers’ compensation fraud in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas. A judge ordered Kornbau to reimburse BWC $40,514 and sentenced him to six months in jail, which he then suspended for five years of community control.

“As Mr. Kornbau’s case shows, some people get creative in trying to cheat the workers’ compensation system” said BWC Administrator/CEO Sarah Morrison. “But that’s no match for our investigators and claims personnel who are trained to detect suspicious claims and stop fraud when they see it. The funds we recover from this case will return to where they belong — taking care of injured workers and creating safe workplaces across this state.”

Kornbau’s case centers around “working wage-loss benefits” he received from Dec. 1, 2014 until April 2, 2016. These benefits are designed to make up the difference in wages between the injured worker’s job at the time of injury and the job following recovery if it pays less.

Kornbau, a coal miner when he was injured in 2009, was supposed to be working, or at least actively looking for work, to receive the benefits. Instead, Kornbau created a fictitious company called Anderson’s Windows and Doors and submitted phony payroll records to BWC as evidence he was working. BWC staff noticed inconsistencies in the records in the summer of 2015 and contacted the agency’s Special Investigations Department.

Investigators quickly determined the company was fake, and Kornbau confessed as much during questioning.

In other recent fraud cases:

  • Robert Lester, of Columbus, pleaded guilty April 4 to a first-degree misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud for filing two false claims for BWC benefits. Lester filed the claims stating he was injured at work, when, in fact, he was not employed at the time of his alleged injuries. A judge sentenced him to 13 days in jail and gave him credit for 13 days served.
  • Shawn Lines, 41, of Ashtabula, pleaded guilty April 3 to a first-degree misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud for working while receiving temporary disability benefits. A Franklin County judge ordered Lines to reimburse BWC $5,370 in minimum payments of at least $125 a month.
  • Ronnie Simmons Jr., of Cleveland, owner of Simmons Adult Care, pleaded guilty March 29 to a minor misdemeanor count of attempted workers’ compensation fraud for failing to carry proper workers’ compensation insurance. Following a judge’s order, he paid his outstanding balance of $3,587 to BWC.

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

Fulton County siblings ordered to reimburse BWC $6K+

Pair took late father’s monthly cash benefits

A judge has ordered a Fulton County sister and brother to reimburse $6,657 to the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation for taking their father’s BWC benefits in the immediate months following his death in 2014.

Cecilia Williams, 36, of Fayette, pleaded guilty Dec. 20 in the Fulton County Court of Common Pleas to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud. She was sentenced Feb. 27 to two years of community control and a suspended jail term of seven months. She also must take a theft education course.

Her brother, James Miller, 35, of Wauseon, was sentenced March 17 to a suspended sentence of six months in jail and a $100 fine after pleading guilty to attempted workers compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor. Both have already paid restitution to BWC.

BWC’s Special Investigations Department learned in 2014 that Williams’ and Miller’s father had passed away on March 15 that year, but no one had reported his death or returned his BWC cash benefits to the agency. Agents later discovered that a total of $6,657 had been withdrawn from ATMs between the dates of March 27, 2014, and July 17, 2014.

Williams admitted to agents that she withdrew the funds using her deceased father’s debit card for personal monetary gain and then provided half of the money to her brother.

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

Gamble on work comp fraud comes up lemons

A Toledo woman who managed a gambling storefront that was raided by state agents in 2014 pleaded guilty March 21 to workers’ compensation fraud for working there while collecting injured worker benefits from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC).

Jennifer E. Garner, 57, pleaded guilty to the first-degree misdemeanor in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas. A judge ordered Garner to pay BWC $7,645 in restitution and sentenced her to five years of community control and a suspended jail term of four months. Garner paid $1,000 prior to her guilty plea.

“Trying to cheat BWC is never a safe bet,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Sarah Morrison. “Our Special Investigations Department is dedicated to rooting out fraud and bringing criminals to justice.”

Acting on a tip, BWC investigators found Garner managing and working at the Surf’s Up Cyberlounge in Oregon, Ohio, through most of 2014 while she collected benefits from BWC for a job injury that purportedly left her permanently and totally disabled.

On Dec. 18, 2014, agents with the Attorney General’s Office, Ohio Casino Control Commission and Oregon Police Department executed a search warrant at Surf’s Up and five other similar storefronts in northwest Ohio on suspicion of operating as illegal casinos. Gaming machines were removed from each of the six locations, but no arrests were made. Prosecutors ultimately declined to pursue the case against Surf’s Up.

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

Try as he might, tree trimmer can’t cheat BWC and get away with it

Akron man earns second conviction for fraudulent activity

An Akron tree trimmer with a history of cheating the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) owes more than $17,000 in restitution to the state agency following his guilty plea last month in a Summit County courtroom.

Matthew Mueller, 46, of Mueller Tree & Landscape, pleaded guilty Feb. 16 in the Summit County Court of Common Pleas to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a fourth degree felony. The conviction, Mueller’s second on similar charges since 2005, followed a BWC investigation that found Mueller under-reported his payroll to lower his BWC premiums by thousands of dollars.

“It’s unfortunate that one criminal conviction isn’t enough for some people to learn a lesson,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Sarah Morrison. “The funds we recover from Mr. Mueller will go to their proper place — taking care of injured workers and creating safe workplaces across this state.”

A judge sentenced Mueller to 24 months of community control and ordered him to pay $17,366 in restitution to BWC. Mueller also must bring his business into compliance with Ohio workers’ compensation law.

The employer fraud unit of BWC’s Special Investigations Department got a tip in 2012 that Mueller was intentionally under-reporting his payroll. BWC found he was misclassifying employees as subcontractors and advised him how to correctly report his payroll. Three years later, however, BWC found Mueller misclassifying his employees and again under-reporting his payroll, this time by nearly $40,000 for the first half of 2015 alone.

Mueller’s earlier troubles with BWC resulted in a guilty plea in August 2005 to forgery, tampering with records and failure to pay workers’ compensation coverage. He was sentenced to eight months incarceration, suspended, and two years of probation.

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

Burglar adds workers’ comp fraud to rap sheet

A Cincinnati man serving time in an Indiana prison for burglary got a short break from prison March 9, but only to plead guilty to workers’ compensation fraud in an Ohio courtroom.

John Dillard Lewis, 47, pleaded guilty to the fifth-degree felony in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, where a judge sentenced him to nine months incarceration, to be served concurrent with his Indiana case. Lewis’s 2015 indictment followed an investigation by the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation that found Lewis had been working for a Wendy’s restaurant while collecting $32,532 in BWC benefits from June 17, 2013 to Aug. 12, 2014.

Lewis was injured on the job in 2011 while working in a factory. BWC’s Special Investigations Department learned he was working while receiving BWC benefits from a database cross match with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. He was indicted in Ohio in 2015 but failed to show for court. Investigators later learned he was in the Indiana prison.

Lewis is serving a nearly six-year sentence in the Branchville Correctional Prison in Indiana for a fourth-degree burglary conviction in Ohio County, Indiana. He was sentenced there last year.

In other recent BWC fraud cases:

  • Patrick Fachman of Columbus pleaded guilty Tuesday to a first-degree count of workers’ compensation fraud for filing two false workers’ comp claims against an employer he no longer worked for. A judge sentenced Fachman to one day of jail time, credited him with one day served, and waived fines and court costs.
  • The owner of a Columbus asphalt company pleaded guilty to a first-degree misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud Feb. 27 after investigators found he had falsified a BWC certificate of coverage to secure a job contract. A judge fined Anthony Evans of A1 Asphalt & Co. $100 and ordered him to pay $134 in court fees.
  • Frank Massingill of Burton, Ohio, was found guilty of a second-degree misdemeanor charge of failure to comply with the law on Jan. 23 for not carrying proper BWC coverage for his business. BWC’s employer fraud team agents tried to work with Massingill to bring him into compliance, but he wouldn’t cooperate. A judge sentenced Massingill to one year of probation and ordered him to pay fees owed to BWC. Massingill also must comply with workers’ compensation rules and regulations, obey all laws and not permanently leave the state without the court’s permission.

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

5 convicted on work comp fraud charges in February

Convictions result of BWC investigations

The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation secured five convictions in February of Ohioans who cheated the agency out of tens of thousands of dollars.

Those convicted include a Cleveland chiropractor who billed for services he didn’t provide, a longtime injured worker who ran a lawn care business and an injured school bus driver who worked for a limousine service without telling BWC he was working again.

“We’re in the business of taking care of people who are legitimately injured, not subsidizing cheats trying to make an easy buck,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Sarah Morrison. “Any money we recover from these cases will go back to the State Insurance Fund for injured workers and workplace safety initiatives.”

Including February’s total, BWC’s Special Investigations Department has secured 24 convictions so far this calendar year. February’s convictions include:

Michael C. Wilson of Cleveland, Services Not Rendered
Wilson, a chiropractor, refunded BWC more than $57,000 on Feb. 15 and agreed to stop treating injured workers in the BWC system after pleading guilty to workers’ compensation fraud in a Franklin County courtroom. Investigators found Wilson falsified treatment notes and billed for services he didn’t provide. He pleaded guilty to a minor misdemeanor charge of workers’ compensation fraud rather than go to trial.

Jason Neagles of Marion, Working and Receiving
Neagles pleaded guilty to a first-degree misdemeanor charge of workers’ compensation fraud Feb. 21 after investigators discovered him working as a high school bowling coach while collecting BWC benefits. A Franklin County judge ordered him to pay BWC $1,587 for the cost of the agency’s investigation. He also warned Neagles to pay BWC within 90 days or face 90 days in jail.

Robert Campbell of Pickerington, Working and Receiving
Investigators found Campbell, who was injured on the job in 1984, owned and worked a lawn care business while collecting permanent total disability benefits from BWC. He pleaded guilty Feb. 13 to one count of workers compensation fraud, a fifth degree felony, and was ordered to pay $93,457 in restitution to BWC. A Franklin County judge also sentenced him to two years community control.

Robert Willie Jr. of Columbus, Working and Receiving
Investigators found Willie, a school bus driver when he was injured on the job in 2010, working as a limousine driver and office clerk while receiving injured workers’ benefits. He pleaded guilty Feb. 7 to a fifth-degree charge of workers’ compensation fraud. A Franklin County judge ordered him to reimburse BWC $80,000 and serve five years probation.

Beverly Ritchie of Tiffin, Working and Receiving
Ritchie pleaded guilty Feb. 28 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor, after investigators found her working for a doctor’s office while receiving temporary disability benefits. The judge ordered her to pay BWC $5,340 in restitution, which she paid immediately.

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