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Archive for March, 2018

Day care owner guilty of work comp fraud

March 23, 2018 Leave a comment

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

March 16, 2018 Leave a comment

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

March 16, 2018 Leave a comment

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.

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