Ducking workers’ comp coverage costs Mansfield freight hauler $144K

The owner of a Mansfield freight hauling and trucking company must pay $144,400 in restitution to the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) following his sentence Monday for his conviction on four felony charges related to workers’ compensation fraud.

A Richland County judge also ordered Robert Tate, owner of Elite TNT Enterprises, to serve two years of probation for his conviction Feb. 20 on two counts of workers’ comp fraud, fourth-degree felonies, and two counts of tampering with records, third-degree felonies. Tate must bring his BWC policy into compliance with state law and pay the agency $137,447 in unpaid policy premiums and $6,953 for the costs of its investigation.

“We reached out to Mr. Tate several times to follow the law and protect his employees with workers’ compensation coverage, but he chose to ignore us and it cost him,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud.

BWC’s special investigations department discovered in 2017 that Tate was operating his business without BWC coverage. After several attempts to work with Tate, agents subpoenaed bank records and audited his business, finding Tate under-reported his payroll over several payroll periods in an attempt to lower the amount he owed the agency. They also found he falsified new applications for BWC coverage by failing to list previous policies with the agency and he under-reported the number of workers he employed.

In other news:

  • A Reynoldsburg woman must pay BWC $5,010 in restitution after pleading guilty April 4 to a misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud. BWC investigators discovered Amanda Treadway working as a swimming pool attendant at a condominium complex in 2017 and also as a phlebotomist while collecting BWC disability benefits.
  • A Cincinnati man found working as a truck driver while collecting BWC disability benefits was convicted of a fifth-degree felony charge of workers’ compensation fraud April 3. Antoine Harris paid BWC $7,963 in restitution prior to his guilty plea. A judge subsequently terminated Harris’s sentence of one month of probation.
  • A Cleveland Heights woman found working as a restaurant hostess while collecting BWC disability benefits pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud March 28 in Franklin County Municipal Court. A judge ordered Morgan Hines to pay BWC $4,089 in restitution, $88 in court costs and a $250 fine. The judge also sentenced her to two years of probation.
  • BWC has reinstated the policy of a Columbus day care center after the owner paid the $9,442 he owed the agency in back premiums. Ali Ismail, owner of Helpful Hands Children’s Centers, pleaded guilty March 20 to a misdemeanor count of failure to comply.

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

Employer compliance supervisor is BWC’s Fraud Finder of the Year

By Jeff Baker, Program Administrator, BWC Special Investigations Department

An employer compliance supervisor in the Cincinnati Service Office received the 2018 Fraud Finder of the Year award Feb. 21 from BWC’s special investigations department (SID).

The supervisor received the award for alerting SID to a case in which an employer failed to report payroll and failed to respond to multiple attempts to schedule a premium audit. An investigation by the SID employer fraud team revealed the employer was operating without coverage. The referral resulted in the identification and recovery of $316,103 in savings to the state insurance fund.

“Thanks to this employee’s vigilance and timely referral, we were able to stop fraud in its tracks and save the BWC system hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said SID Director Jim Wernecke. “Our success in uncovering fraud protects resources needed to create safe workplaces in Ohio and to care for those who are legitimately injured on the job.”

The BWC employee, who supervises field staff members assigned to the BWC employer compliance department, said he was honored to receive the award.

“I am truly honored to be recognized for simply doing my job and trying to do my part, while seemingly small, to safeguard the State Insurance Fund,” the employee said. He offered the following advice to any BWC employee who suspects fraud: “Trust your gut.”

SID received 3,150 allegations of fraud in 2018. About a fifth of those came from BWC personnel around the state. These included claims representatives, employer representatives and others who suspected illicit behavior on the part of injured workers, employers, health care providers or others connected to the BWC system. During 2018, SID closed 381 cases referred by 169 BWC employees. The investigations resulted in 192 “founded cases” (the original allegation was proven true) and identified $3.1 million in savings to the BWC system

To show their appreciation, SID leaders conducted a thank-you tour and red-flag training from November through February, presenting Fraud Finder Award certificates to BWC employees in service offices across Ohio.

“We encourage all BWC employees and the general public to contact us immediately if they suspect fraudulent behavior in our system, even the slightest hint of it,” said Director Wernecke. “We will conduct a thorough investigation, and the sooner we get started, the better.”

To report suspected cases of workers’ compensation fraud, call 1-800-644-6292 (then select option 0, option 4, option 1) or visit www.bwc.ohio.gov.

Logan County man sentenced for workers’ comp fraud

On the day he was sentenced to prison for breaking and entering, gross sexual imposition, burglary and other charges, a Bellefontaine man was also ordered to pay nearly $6,400 in restitution to his employer and the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) for collecting disability benefits while secretly working another job.

Joseph A. Wilson, 32, was sentenced to six years in prison March 8 on multiple charges, including reduced charges related to workers’ compensation fraud — petty theft, a first-degree misdemeanor, and failure to appear in court, a fourth-degree felony. A judge in the Logan County Court of Common Pleas ordered Wilson to reimburse his employer (Rent-A-Center) $2,904 and pay BWC $3,469 for the cost of its investigation.

“Workers’ compensation fraud is a crime we take seriously,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud. “Fraud steals resources needed by workers who are truly injured, and it raises the cost of our entire system. Kudos to our special investigations department for bringing this case to a close.”

BWC investigators confirmed an anonymous tip they received in late 2017 that Wilson was working on a horse farm while collecting disability benefits from Rent-A-Center. Wilson was arrested in November on warrants for five counts of gross sexual imposition, two counts of workers’ compensation fraud, two counts of failure to appear, and single counts of receiving stolen property, theft, breaking and entering and criminal damaging.

In other news:

The owner of Home Bakery in Coldwater, Ohio, pleaded guilty March 8 to three counts of failure to comply after BWC discovered him operating his business without a workers’ comp policy for three years. A Celina judge ordered Carl R. Brunswick to pay a $50 fine for each count and serve 10 days in jail for each count. The judge suspended the jail time on the condition Brunswick not have any similar violations in the next five years. Brunswick is on a repayment plan with the state to pay his past BWC premiums.

A Dayton woman convicted last month of passing a bad check to BWC must serve five years of probation and complete 40 hours of community service. Carissa Couch of Couch Family Construction pleaded guilty to the fifth-degree felony on Feb. 27 in the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas. The plea followed multiple attempts by BWC to work with Couch to bring her policy into compliance after her check to the agency for $3,333 bounced at the bank.

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

Prison, hefty restitution ordered for Cleveland fraudster

Contractor collected $246K in disability from BWC, Social Security

A Cleveland-area man was sentenced to seven months in prison Wednesday and ordered to repay nearly $246,000 in disability benefits he fraudulently received from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) and the Social Security Administration.

Louis C. Cooper, 57, of North Royalton, previously pleaded guilty to wire fraud and theft of government property after investigators discovered him concealing his work as a general contractor. He was sentenced Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio in Cleveland.

“Acting on an anonymous tip, our investigators discovered Mr. Cooper earned at least $185,000 over the last eight years as a general contractor while telling BWC and Social Security he was too injured to work,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud. “Our benefits are for workers who truly need them, not for fraudsters to pad their income. I commend our special investigations department and the Social Security Administration for bringing Mr. Cooper’s criminal activity to an end.”

Cooper was injured on the job in 1996. Investigators from BWC and Social Security found he had developed a scheme dating back to at least 2010 to conceal his income as a general contractor by asking his clients to not pay him directly. While reporting to both agencies numerous times that he was too injured to work, Cooper collected nearly $168,000 from BWC and nearly $78,000 from Social Security.

According to court documents, Cooper must surrender to the U.S. Marshals Service on April 18 for transfer to a federal prison. He must serve three years of probation following his release. This case was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio.

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

Receptionist owes BWC $19K after fraud conviction

Agency secures six convictions in January

A Bellefontaine woman who worked as a receptionist while claiming to be disabled from work owes the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation nearly $19,000 following her conviction last month on a felony workers’ compensation fraud charge.

A Franklin County judge on Jan. 16 ordered Dawn M. Hattery, 50, to reimburse BWC $17,937 and pay $1,000 in investigation costs for working while collecting BWC benefits from January to November 2017. The judge also sentenced her to five years of probation after she pleaded guilty to the fifth-degree felony.

“Ms. Hattery not only broke the law deceiving this agency, she earned a criminal record that will follow her for years to come,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud. “Our role is to compensate workers while they’re recovering from injury, not pad the income of people trying to cheat the system.”

In other convictions last month:

Marc E. Pope, 50, of Cleveland, paid BWC $23,793 in restitution Jan. 30 before his guilty plea on two first-degree misdemeanor counts of workers’ compensation fraud in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas. BWC found Pope working multiple jobs while collecting disability benefits from the agency.

Kenneth Miller, owner of Grant Street Pallet Inc. in Lisbon, Ohio, pleaded no contest Jan. 29 to a second-degree misdemeanor count of failure to comply after entering a reinstatement payment plan with BWC. A judge sentenced Miller to 10 days in jail and fined him $750, then suspended both.

Larry West, owner of the Bluebird Restaurant in Norwood, paid all past-due installments and premiums on his BWC policy before pleading guilty Jan. 25 to a reduced charge of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor. He was sentenced to one day in jail, then credited with time served.

Douglas J. Krouskoupf of Zanesville pleaded guilty Jan. 9 to a first-degree misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas. A judge sentenced Krouskoupf to 180 days in jail, which he suspended on the condition Krouskoupf pay BWC $7,924 in restitution.

Stephan L. Evans Sr, dba AB Shelby’s Auto Tractor and Trailer Repair in Akron, pleaded guilty Jan. 7 to one count of failure to comply, a second-degree misdemeanor, after BWC found him operating his business without workers’ compensation coverage. An Akron Municipal Court judge sentenced Evans to one year of obeying the law and ordered him to pay $324 in court costs.

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

Construction worker hammered with fraud conviction

Cleveland man reimburses BWC $24,000

A Cleveland construction worker who worked multiple jobs while collecting disability benefits from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation reimbursed the agency nearly $24,000 on Jan. 30 before pleading guilty to workers’ compensation fraud.

Marc. E. Pope, 50, paid BWC $23,793 in restitution before his guilty plea on two first-degree misdemeanor counts of workers’ compensation fraud in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas.

“We found Mr. Pope working as a laborer for several businesses while claiming to be disabled from work,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud. “When someone scams the system, they are really hurting injured workers who rely on us to help them recover from their injury and return to work.”

In other fraud-related news:

A Cincinnati-area restaurant owner who would not cooperate with BWC to reinstate his policy finally did so after a Hamilton County grand jury indicted him on a fourth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud.

Larry West, owner of the Bluebird Restaurant in Norwood, paid all past-due installments and premiums on his BWC policy before pleading guilty Jan. 25 to a reduced charge of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor. He was sentenced to one day in jail, then credited with time served.

The owner of a pallet company in eastern Ohio was sentenced to two years of probation Jan. 29 for failing to carry workers’ compensation insurance on his business.

Kenneth Miller, owner of Grant Street Pallet Inc. in Lisbon, Ohio, pleaded no contest to a second-degree misdemeanor count of failure to comply after entering a reinstatement payment plan with BWC. A judge sentenced Miller to 10 days in jail and fined him $750, then suspended both.

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

Trucker kept truckin’ while collecting injured-worker benefits

Zanesville man convicted of workers’ comp fraud

A Zanesville truck driver must pay nearly $8,000 in restitution to the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) after agency investigators found him working for a living while collecting BWC disability benefits.

Douglas J. Krouskoupf, 53, pleaded guilty Jan. 9 to a first-degree misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas. A judge sentenced Krouskoupf to 180 days in jail, which he suspended on the condition Krouskoupf pay BWC $7,924 in restitution.

“We found Mr. Krouskoupf working for his brother’s sandblasting business on multiple occasions and that he was also driving a semi-truck while collecting BWC benefits,” said Jim Wernecke, director of BWC’s special investigations department. “Our benefits are for people who suffer a workplace injury and can’t do their job. Mr. Krouskoupf clearly doesn’t fit into that category.”

In other news, BWC netted seven fraud or fraud-related convictions in December, bringing calendar year 2018’s total to 94. In order of most recent case, December convictions include:

Jason Dudas, Mentor, Ohio
Dudas pleaded guilty Dec. 13 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor, after BWC found him working as a handyman while receiving BWC benefits. A judge ordered Dudas to pay $5,073 in restitution and serve three years of non-reporting probation.

Gabriel Seda, Grafton, Ohio
Seda pleaded guilty Dec. 6 through a Bill of Information to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud after BWC found him working as a landscaper while receiving BWC benefits. A Franklin County judge ordered Seda to reimburse BWC $33,960 and sentenced him to five years of probation in lieu of a year in prison.

John House, Chris Kraft and Lynn Howard, dba Old Crow Bar, Middletown, Ohio
House, Kraft and Howard, owners of the Old Crow Bar, each pleaded guilty Dec. 3 to disorderly conduct, a fourth-degree misdemeanor, after BWC discovered they weren’t carrying workers’ compensation coverage on their business. A judge sentenced House to 10 days in jail (suspended) and fined him $200 and $90 in court costs. Kraft and Howard were both sentenced to one day in jail (suspended) and fined $100 and $90 in court costs.

Brian Lang, dba Outdoor Inspirations, Holland, Ohio
Lang pleaded guilty to a third-degree misdemeanor charge of attempted failure to comply with the law Dec. 3 after BWC discovered him running a business without workers’ compensation coverage to protect his employees. A judge scheduled sentencing for Jan. 28 after Lang paid $5,304 toward the balance he owes BWC.

Beth Turner, dba Flashions Ltd, Springfield, Ohio
Turner pleaded guilty Dec. 3 to failure to comply, a minor misdemeanor, after BWC found her operating her business without workers’ compensation coverage. Turner was fined $100 and court costs.

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