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Archive for June, 2018

Eight Ohioans plead to work comp fraud-related charges in May

The eight Ohioans who pleaded guilty and no contest in May to fraud-related charges against the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) include a homicide suspect, a Cincinnati bus driver who collected disability benefits while working two other jobs, and a health care provider who billed BWC for work his company didn’t perform.

“Our convictions in May illustrate a range of fraud types that we see at BWC, some more serious than others,” said Jim Wernecke, director of BWC’s special investigations department. “But regardless of severity, we approach each case with equal determination to find the truth, prosecute the guilty and reclaim funds that support injured workers and create safer workplaces in our state.”

The cases, in order of most recent court date, include:

Samantha Coleman, Cincinnati — Working and Receiving
Coleman was working as a bus driver for the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) when she was injured on the job in November 2015. While collecting disability benefits from SORTA, she continued to work her other two jobs as a tax preparer and security guard.

Coleman pleaded guilty May 30 in Hamilton County to one count of worker’s compensation fraud and one count of theft, both fifth-degree felonies. She was placed in the county’s diversion program because she had no prior record. Over the next year, she must reimburse SORTA $7,088, complete 120 hours of community service and participate in a counseling program.  If she successfully completes these requirements the case will be dismissed and she will not receive a conviction.

Bryan Gentry, Canal Fulton — Tampering with Records
Gentry pleaded guilty to a third-degree felony count of Tampering with Records after SID determined he created a phony BWC certificate of coverage to secure a tree-trimming job in Stark County. The judge sentenced him to a year in prison, to be served concurrently with a three-year term for assault and receiving stolen property.

Gentry, who’s imprisoned in Richland Correctional Institution in Mansfield, is also a suspect in the 2017 killing of a Stark County man who was romantically involved with Gentry’s girlfriend.

Gabriella Benkovits, Lakewood — Working and Receiving
Benkovits pleaded guilty May 22 to a first-degree misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud after BWC found her working as a bartender while collecting disability income. She must pay BWC $7,595 in restitution and serve two years of probation.

Jeffrey Guerin, Willoughby Hills — Services Not Rendered
Guerin pleaded guilty in a Franklin County court to a first-degree misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud. BWC found him billing the agency for work his now-defunct company, PT Plus in Willoughby Hills, did not perform. Guerin paid $7,154 in restitution to BWC and agreed to leave the BWC network of providers.

Carolyn Tibbetts, Toledo — Lapsed Coverage
Tibbets, the owner of Little Explorers Toledo Learning Center, pleaded no contest May 17 to three charges of failure to comply after investigators found her operating her child care center without BWC coverage. Tibbets worked with BWC to bring her businesses into compliance, but she failed to continue payments on a balance of more than $12,000. The charges are second-degree misdemeanors.

A judge referred her case to Lucas County’s probation department to be considered for its Alternatives Program. No further court action will be taken against Tibbetts if she’s accepted into the program.

Marshall Winn IV, Niles — Working and Receiving
Winn, a truck driver from northeast Ohio, pleaded guilty May 14 to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud after investigators found him working while collecting disability benefits. A Franklin County judge sentenced him to five years of probation in lieu of nine months in prison and ordered him to pay BWC $12,450 in restitution and court costs.

Brooke Mobley, Dayton — Working and Receiving
Mobley pleaded guilty May 9 in Franklin County to one count of theft, a first-degree misdemeanor, after investigators found she had returned to work as an office worker while collecting disability benefits from BWC. A judge fined Mobley $200 plus court costs in lieu of a 60-day jail sentence. Mobley paid BWC $5,455 in restitution prior to her sentencing.

Judith Barlock, Parma — Lapsed Coverage
Barlock, the owner of Chase Professional Transport, failed to bring her company back into compliance after BWC discovered her policy had lapsed. She pleaded guilty May 2 to one count of failure to comply, a second-degree misdemeanor. A judge sentenced her to 90 days in jail (60 days suspended) and five years of probation. The court deferred the balance of jail time and $750 of her fine until a June 20 probation review. The amount of restitution owed BWC will be determined at that review.

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

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Ohio murder suspect defrauds state work comp bureau

Northeast Ohio tree trimmer falsified coverage certificate

One month after his alleged role in murdering his girlfriend’s other lover in February 2017, Bryan T. Gentry created a phony proof-of-coverage certificate from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) to land a tree-trimming job and avoid paying for actual coverage.

The Stark County man’s handiwork earned him a one-year prison sentence May 24 when a Summit County judge found him guilty of tampering with records, a third-degree felony. On the same day, the judge also found Gentry, 27, of Canal Fulton, guilty for the second-degree felonious assault of an Akron man last year, a crime apparently unrelated to his BWC case or to one involving a deadly love triangle.

“It seems our case might be the least of Mr. Gentry’s legal troubles right now, but we can’t let unrelated crimes stop us from doing our job,” said Jim Wernecke, director of BWC’s special investigations department. “Our job is to deter, detect and prevent worker’s comp fraud. We don’t let anyone slide.”

The judge gave Gentry three years in prison for the assault charge, to be served concurrently with his sentence for tampering and still another prison sentence he earned in December for receiving stolen property. Police tracked Gentry down last year after finding his mail in a stolen truck.

In the BWC case, Wernecke said a customer of Gentry’s tree service contacted the agency last summer after he suspected Gentry’s BWC certificate wasn’t legitimate. Two clues tipped off the customer, an insurance salesman: The certificate lacked a policy number, and Gentry noted a policy period of one day, “3/10/2017 through 3/10/2017.” BWC’s practice is to note a full policy year, such as 07/01/2016 through 06/30/2017.

BWC agents determined Gentry doctored a relative’s certificate to look like his own so he and his six workers could get the job. Agents interviewed Gentry on Jan. 31 at the Lorain Correctional Institution in Grafton, Ohio, where he lied and denied forging the certificate, but was “soft-spoken and very well-mannered” while doing it, they said.

Two days later, Gentry’s life got more complicated. Acting on a tip from Gentry’s girlfriend, Stark County authorities recovered the body of 25-year-old man from the backyard of his Massillon home. They found him in a plastic tote, encased in concrete and buried six feet below ground.

For more on that case, see these articles in the Massillon Independent and People magazine.

Gentry has since been relocated to the Richland Correctional Institution in Mansfield.

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