Archive

Archive for April, 2018

Cleveland man finds work doesn’t pay

Work comp fraudster owes BWC $10k+ after conviction

A Cleveland man who worked for nearly a year while collecting injured-worker benefits must pay $10,498 in restitution to the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) after pleading guilty to workers’ compensation fraud Wednesday.

James Harris, 44, also must serve three years of probation for the fifth-degree felony, according to his sentence in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas.

“We got an anonymous tip that Mr. Harris was working as a laborer for a property management company, so we checked it out,” said Jim Wernecke, director of BWC’s special investigations department. “After reviewing employment records and interviewing property owners, we determined Mr. Harris was engaged in regular, ongoing work and getting paid for it. You can’t do that and claim you’re disabled from work.”

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

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Ohio BWC secures five fraud-related convictions in March

The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation secured five fraud-related convictions in March and restitution orders totaling more than $41,000.

Those convicted include a remodeling contractor, a babysitter and the owner of a Dayton drive-thru business, as well as a landscaper and a graphic artist. The following cases bring BWC’s total convictions this year to 12 as of March 31.

“Employers must have workers’ comp insurance to support injured workers in their time of need,” said Jim Wernecke, director of BWC’s special investigations department. “With these cases closed, we can put their premium dollars back to work caring for injured workers and promoting safety in every Ohio workplace.”

Scott Jones of Perrysburg, Ohio (Wood County), Working and Receiving
Jones was found guilty on March 21 of a first-degree misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud after investigators found him remodeling bathrooms, convenience stores and performing other construction work while collecting BWC benefits.

A Franklin County judge ordered Jones 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 when he appeared in court.

 Sharrounda Fuller, Columbus, Ohio (Franklin County), Working and Receiving
Investigators discovered Fuller operating a day care out of her home while collecting workers’ compensation benefits from her self-insured employer. She pleaded guilty March 20 to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud. She 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.

Christine Niffa, dba Christy’s Drive Thru, Dayton, Ohio (Montgomery County), Lapsed Coverage
BWC discovered that Christy’s Drive Thru in Dayton had been operating with lapsed workers’ comp coverage since March 2013. After charges were filed, Niffa appeared in court March 8 and pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, a minor misdemeanor. She paid BWC the balance due and her policy was reinstated.

Charles Parry

Charles Parry, Plain City, Ohio (Union County), Working and Receiving
BWC investigators found Parry operating a landscaping business for 10 months while receiving temporary total disability benefits. Parry pleaded guilty March 8 to one count of theft, a first-degree misdemeanor. He paid restitution of $6,527 to BWC and was sentenced to one day in jail, suspended for time served.

John Bezusko, Tacoma, Washington, Working and Receiving
Injured on the job in 1991, Bezusko pleaded guilty to workers’ compensation fraud March 5 after investigators found him working in Colorado while collecting BWC benefits. Bezusko must pay $19,530 in restitution to BWC and serve five years probation for the first-degree misdemeanor, according to his sentence in a Franklin County courtroom.

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

Northeast Ohio man charged in $684K work comp/Social Security fraud scheme

Voicemail greeting exposes scheme

 

Thomas H. Cannell’s friendly voicemail greeting blew his cover, and now the fireplace salesman from northeast Ohio faces potential prison time and a bill for more than $684,000 for defrauding the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) and the Social Security Administration for decades.

The 62-year-old Cannell, a resident of Northfield Village in Summit County, was charged with theft of government funds and wire fraud Wednesday in the United States District Court in Cleveland after BWC discovered him concealing work income since 1993 while collecting $204,761 in permanent total disability benefits from BWC and $479,288 in Supplemental Security Income from Social Security.

“One of our claims specialists returned a phone call from Mr. Cannell in 2015 and heard the voicemail greeting, ‘Hello, you have reached Tom at Your Fireplace Shop,’” said Jim Wernecke, director of BWC’s special investigations department. “We took it from there.”

Wernecke said Cannell concocted a scheme to avoid being paid directly by the Summit County business owner. He said the owner had no knowledge of anything illegal going on and cooperated fully with BWC and Social Security investigators.

Sentencing for Cannell has not yet been scheduled. According to the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio’s office, the court will first review Cannell’s prior criminal record, if any, his role in the offense and other characteristics of the violation. In all federal cases, the sentence will not exceed the statutory maximum. In most cases, it will be less.

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

For Cleveland man, there’s something about workers’ comp fraud

Habitual offender, already in prison, convicted for fifth time on fraud-related charges

Kenneth L. Gilmore doesn’t give up easily, even if the price means prison, probation and steep financial penalties.

After three previous convictions for crimes against the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, the 54-year-old Cleveland man found himself in court again on April 2, where he pleaded guilty to workers’ compensation fraud and other felonies in connection with deceiving hospitals to obtain prescription painkillers.

“Mr. Gilmore filed a legitimate injury claim with us in 2001, but since then he’s filed several fake claims to obtain narcotics and have us pay for it,” said Jim Wernecke, director of BWC’s special investigation department.

Taking a break from the Lorain Correctional Institution, where he’s serving a 27-month sentence on similar charges in a federal case, Gilmore pleaded guilty last week in the Lorain County Court of Common Pleas to 10 felonies. They include three counts of forgery, a fifth-degree felony (F5), three counts of tampering with records (F3), two counts of deception to obtain dangerous drugs (F2), one count of workers’ compensation fraud (F5) and one count of theft (F5). He was sentenced to 30 months in jail, to be served concurrently with his federal sentence, and ordered to pay BWC $6,075 in restitution.

Gilmore’s previous BWC-related convictions occurred in 2003, 2008 and 2010. The most recent case stems from 2013 and 2014, when he filed false applications for injured-worker benefits at a hospital emergency department in Lorain and at another in Twinsburg in Summit County. The companies he listed as his employers later confirmed Gilmore never worked for them. Gilmore confessed as much when interviewed by BWC agents.

In the federal case, Gilmore posed as an injured U.S. Marshal in 2017 at a Cleveland hospital to obtain narcotics. He was convicted of one count of impersonating a peace officer and five counts of obtaining dangerous drugs by deception.

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