BWC investigations result in nine workers’ comp fraud convictions in March

Columbus – Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) Administrator/CEO Steve Buehrer announced today that nine individuals were convicted of, or pleaded guilty to, charges related to defrauding Ohio’s workers’ compensation system in March 2015. These court actions are the result of investigations conducted by BWC’s Special Investigations Department (SID).

“We encourage anyone who suspects past or current fraudulent activity to contact us using our online fraud reporting form or fraud hotline,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Steve Buehrer. “Our investigators follow-up on every tip, and when warranted, conduct research to determine whether or not workers’ compensation fraud occurred.”

The following is a sampling of cases that resulted in guilty pleas or convictions during March:

Anthony Robinson (Columbus, Franklin County) pleaded guilty March 18 in Franklin County Court of Common Pleas to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor. He applied for a job with a company in June 2013, but was not hired. On two occasions in July and October 2013, Robinson went to a hospital emergency department and claimed to have been injured while working for that same company. He filed two separate claims with BWC for these alleged injuries, which were both disallowed by the Industrial Commission of Ohio. Investigators confirmed that Robinson was not a company employee on either date he claimed to have been injured. He was sentenced to serve 90 days in jail, which was suspended on the condition that he pays fines and court costs.

Celeste Chappell-Bates (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. She 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, which is suspended as long as she complies with the terms of community control.

Douglas Roop (Spencerville, Allen County) pleaded guilty March 24 in Franklin County Court of Common Pleas to a bill of information charging him with one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a fifth-degree felony. BWC received an allegation that Roop might have been working while receiving disability benefits. Investigators found that Roop worked for a restoration company between January 2012 and September 2013, and that he was paid in cash and was permitted to live in a home where the mortgage and utilities were paid for in exchange for his work. He also worked for a company that provides emergency response services. Roop is scheduled to be sentenced June 1.

Daniel Hess (Mineral Ridge, Trumbull County) pleaded guilty March 12 in Mahoning County Court of Common Pleas to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a fifth-degree felony. Investigators reviewed financial records, and conducted interviews and surveillance. They found that Hess worked as an independent construction contractor while receiving temporary total disability benefits. Injured workers are not permitted to work while receiving this type of benefit. Hess is scheduled to be sentenced May 20.

Michael Angelo (North Canton, Stark County) pleaded guilty March 3 in Franklin County Court of Common Pleas to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a fifth-degree felony. BWC received an allegation on its fraud hotline that Angelo was working while receiving disability benefits. Investigators found that Angelo was working at two different “games of skill” businesses on a part-time basis while receiving temporary total disability benefits between October 2012 and August 2013. Angelo is scheduled to be sentenced May 15.

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

Check out our latest cases at ohiobwcfraud.wordpress.com and view BWC’s workers’ comp fraud awareness video on YouTube.

Jefferson County man ordered to repay $3K in restitution

Allen Taylor, of Wintersville (Jefferson County), pleaded guilty March 23 in Franklin County Court of Common Pleas to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor.

An anonymous tip was received that Taylor filed a false claim, and that he was injured and treated at a clinic in Florida months before the alleged date of injury he reported to BWC. Investigators obtained records from the Florida clinic, and found that Taylor was treated and diagnosed with an injury in July 2012 – before filing a claim for the same injury with BWC in December 2012. It was found that Taylor deceived his physician in Ohio by not disclosing his previous diagnosis, and that led to BWC paying $3,598.94 in medical bills.

Taylor was sentenced to pay $3,598.94 to BWC by April 23, and to pay court costs by July 23.

Former Summit County man sentenced for workers’ comp fraud, repays $20K

Columbus – A Crested Butte, Colorado, man was convicted March 18 in Franklin County Municipal Court for submitting false payroll checks to obtain workers’ compensation benefits. Charles D. Murray, formerly of Hudson (Summit County), pleaded guilty to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor.

“We rely on internal and external tips for anything that seems out of the ordinary, and in this case, a BWC claims service specialist reported what appeared to be suspicious payroll records,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Steve Buehrer. “Tips help us put an end to fraud and ultimately aid in our efforts to protect employers’ premium dollars and keep their workers’ compensation costs as low as possible.”

Investigators learned that Murray lived outside of Ohio, but submitted paystubs for employment from Ohio businesses in order to receive wage loss working benefits from BWC. This type of benefit provides compensation for claimants experiencing wage loss as a result of workplace injuries. Investigators confirmed the payroll records Murray submitted between 2011 and 2013 were false. In November 2014, the Industrial Commission of Ohio issued a finding of overpayment in the amount of $17,771.99.

Prior to entering his plea, Murray issued a cashier’s check to BWC totaling $21,927.09, including full restitution and investigative costs. He was ordered to pay court costs.

To report suspected workers’ compensation fraud, call 1-800-644-6292 or visit bwc.ohio.gov. Check out our latest cases at ohiobwcfraud.wordpress.com, and see what workers’ compensation fraud looks like in our fraud awareness video on YouTube.

Workers’ comp fraud presentation educates OSC15 attendees

More than 100 people attended the workers’ compensation fraud educational session offered Wednesday at the 2015 Ohio Safety Congress & Expo (OSC15). SID assistant special agents in charge Mike Fannon and Doug Risley offered an overview of workers’ compensation fraud and answered questions about how fraud is investigated and when to report it.

The session was titled, “Workers’ Compensation Fraud: Do You Know if it’s Happening to You?”

Those who attended the session represent a number of industries, including manufacturing, insurance, health care, construction, service and transportation.

Fannon and Risley covered the different types of workers’ compensation fraud – employer, medical provider and claimant fraud.

SID’s average savings per case is $65,000, according to Fannon.

“In the state of Ohio, it is a law that you have workers’ compensation coverage, if you have one or more employees,” Fannon said, adding that if an employer isn’t paying premiums, BWC works with them to try to bring them into compliance. “You must report your payroll and you must pay your premiums. It’s only fair that all of the employers with employees in the state of Ohio pay their premiums.”

Risley shared surveillance footage from several cases, including that of Randy and Robin Hammond, of Galion, who were ordered in 2012 to repay BWC more than $173,000.

“A lot of people think fraud’s okay, but it isn’t,” Risley said. “If you think you have something going on, please call us.”

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

Categories: News Articles

Columbus woman ordered to repay $10K in workers’ comp restitution

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.

Portage County man caught double-dipping on surveillance video

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.

Former Lake County man ordered to repay $42K in restitution

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.Frank Palesh 3-20-15

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.

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