Home > Fraud Awareness, SID Information > The long arm of the law: The SID Fugitive Task Force in action

The long arm of the law: The SID Fugitive Task Force in action

Handcuffed

The scenario is all too common in the criminal justice system. By means of a grand jury indictment, a defendant is charged with a crime. Yet – although presumed innocent until proven guilty – the defendant fails to show up in court for a scheduled arraignment hearing. Without even entering a plea to the criminal charge, the defendant has fled. The court promptly issues a bench warrant for the defendant’s arrest. The defendant has become a fugitive from the law.

Many fugitives go into hiding, apparently hoping the court will somehow forget about them. Some leave our state, or even our country, seemingly believing the best bet is to put distance between themselves and their crime. However, little do they understand that they can indeed run, but they certainly cannot hide.

It was for this very reason that, back in 1999, SID assembled an elite team comprised of a fraud analyst and several special agents. This BWC Fugitive Task Force (FTF) – as it was soon to be known – immediately commenced coordinating action with law enforcement agencies to bring our BWC fugitives to justice. The FTF accomplishes its mission by identifying the location of each fugitive, guiding law enforcement to execute the fugitive’s arrest and, where needed, ensuring the fugitive’s extradition to the respective jurisdiction where s/he faces a criminal charge. Of course, the key action step is the first action step – namely, locating the fugitive. To do this, the FTF uses many sources of information, including the databases of other governmental and law enforcement agencies. Often FTF members conduct surveillance. Sometimes they execute undercover operations. Always, these investigative strategies are carefully planned and coordinated to secure otherwise hidden information.

A Case In Point

We received an allegation that a claimant was receiving lost time benefits for a falsified assault and that he routinely engaged in several, strenuous physical activities without any apparent physical restriction. Our investigation revealed the subject had furnished no fewer than 17 versions of how he had sustained his injuries in an attempted robbery reported to, and investigated by, local law enforcement. The evidence we secured included statements from multiple witnesses to whom the subject had admitted he had sustained no injury. Additionally, we secured a security guard’s statement that he observed the claimant put on back and leg braces and a sling in a parking lot prior to attending an Industrial Commission hearing. After viewing our surveillance video, a provider concluded the claimant’s “presentation was not true and it was a conscious and deliberate feigning of an illness or disability.” In fact, our investigation proved that while receiving benefits the claimant had continued to work as a self-employed auto mechanic.

When indicted, the subject fled prosecution. However, our Fugitive Task Force located him in Las Vegas, Nevada and secured his extradition back to Ohio. The subject pled guilty to one fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud. The court sentenced the subject to serve five years of probation. The court ordered the subject to pay BWC $33,635 in restitution.

A Case In Point

We received an allegation that a claimant owned and operated a business in Arizona while receiving lost time benefits from BWC. Our investigation revealed the subject owned and operated a home restoration business in Sierra Vista, Arizona. The evidence we secured included reports documenting the subject was found guilty in Arizona on three occasions of operating his business without a contractor’s license. Our evidence also included 149 checks written by customers to the subject. In all, we identified $419,357 in cash and checks the subject received for his active work as a contractor.

The BWC SID Fugitive Task Force coordinated the subject’s arrest at work by the Cochise County (Arizona) Sheriff’s Department. The U.S. Marshalls Service extradited the subject back to the State of Ohio. The subject pled guilty to one fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud. The court sentenced the subject to serve 12 months of incarceration (suspended) and five years of probation. The court ordered the subject to pay BWC $64,273 in restitution and $2,727 investigative costs.

Be on the Lookout

You may see the identities and photos of current BWC “Wanted Fugitives” on our SID Facebook page: ohiobwcfraud.

Look for our next fraud awareness article that will discuss our Safety Violations Investigation Unit (SVIU). Meanwhile, be sure to read more about fraud investigations in our SID FY 2011 Annual Report.

If you suspect anyone is committing workers’ compensation fraud, or if you suspect you know the location of a BWC fugitive, let us know. You may report it online at http://bit.ly/reportfraud or you may speak with a fraud hotline agent by calling 1-800-OHIOBWC.

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