Archive

Archive for September, 2018

BWC calls foul on Cleveland youth basketball coach

Coach convicted of workers’ comp fraud Wednesday

A basketball coach in Cleveland must reimburse the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) more than $4,000 after the agency’s investigators found her working while collecting injured-worker benefits.

Christine Estrict, aka Christina Estrict, pleaded guilty to a first-degree misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud Wednesday in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas. A judge sentenced her to 180 days in jail, then suspended the sentence for five years of probation. He ordered her to pay BWC $4,156 in restitution.

“We received an anonymous tip in 2016 that Ms. Estrict was working as a paid referee while receiving BWC benefits, which is against state law,” said Jim Wernecke, director of BWC’s special investigations department. “Our investigation found her working as a basketball coach in Beachwood City Schools and also as a coach and athletic director for a charter school.”

In other news, a former Ohioan now living in Florida pleaded guilty Wednesday to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud after BWC found him working as a truck driver in 2015 while collecting BWC benefits.

A Franklin County judge ruled Glenn J. Miller III, 44, must serve three years of probation and pay BWC $16,000 in restitution.

Also this week, a Dayton-area business owner who owed BWC more than $190,000 in back premiums this year avoided jail time Monday when a judge fined him $250 for failing to comply with Ohio law requiring him to carry workers’ compensation coverage.

A Kettering Municipal Court judge suspended his 30-day jail sentence for Randall Mount, the owner of Ram Restoration in Centerville, and sentenced Mount to two years non-reporting probation instead. Mount and BWC informed the court that Mount is in a repayment plan with BWC and the agency had reinstated his coverage Aug. 13.

Mount’s business remediates water, fire and mold damage and performs other construction work, according to its website.

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

Cleveland-area valet attendant convicted of workers’ comp fraud

BWC also reports four fraud convictions in August

A Cleveland-area man collecting disability benefits from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation pleaded guilty to workers’ compensation fraud Monday after investigators found him working as a valet attendant at Southwest General Hospital in Middleburg Heights.

Anthony Caputo, 67, paid BWC $4,021 in restitution prior to his plea in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, where a judge fined him $500 in lieu of a 10-day jail sentence for the first-degree misdemeanor.

“Acting on a tip in 2017, our investigators found Mr. Caputo had worked for no less than four employers while receiving BWC benefits,” said Jim Wernecke, director of BWC’s special investigations department. “In fact, we found he went back to work just a few weeks after his on-the-job injury at a restaurant in August 2016.”

In another fraud case, a Springfield woman pleaded guilty to workers’ compensation fraud Sept. 13 after investigators found her working as a consultant to a South Charleston employer while collecting BWC benefits.

Linda Cline paid BWC $6,759 in restitution prior to pleading guilty to the first-degree misdemeanor in the Franklin County common pleas court. A judge sentenced her to six months of probation.

In other news, BWC secured fraud convictions against three Ohioans and one Texan in August, bringing the calendar year’s total to 54 as of Aug. 31. Those convicted include:

  • Walter Patterson of Olmsted Twp. – Patterson pleaded guilty Aug. 21 to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud in Franklin County. A judge ordered Patterson to reimburse BWC $45,906 and serve five years of community control.
  • Jason Smith of Pataskala – Smith pleaded guilty Aug. 14 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a fifth-degree felony. He was sentenced to 12 months incarceration, suspended for three years of community control. He was ordered to pay restitution of $41,413 to his former employer, TS Tech Corporation.
  • Grant Myers of Huron – Myers pleaded guilty Aug. 8 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor. He was sentenced to 30 days incarceration, suspended. He paid BWC $11,566 in restitution.
  •  Stacy Driskell of Cedar Park, Texas – Driskell pleaded guilty Aug. 3 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor, after investigators found her working for a mortgage lending law firm in Texas while collecting BWC benefits. A judge fined Driskell $300 plus court costs. Prior to the plea, Driskell paid full restitution of $3,056 to BWC.

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

2,000 Fraud Hotline calls in 10 months!

By Jeff Baker, Program Administrator, BWC Special Investigations Department

We have received 2,000 calls since we launched our new Fraud Hotline system ten months ago during International Fraud Awareness Week 2017. The 200 calls a month, means we have received nearly 10 each work day, or more than one every working hour!

In our November 14, 2017 blog, we noted that calling the BWC Fraud Hotline is the most interactive and direct way for you to report an allegation of fraud. Our hotline puts you in direct contact with an agent in our Special Investigations Department, one ready and willing to listen to your concerns.

Our hotline agents have years of investigative knowledge, skills and experience securing the essential information from sources. Whether the fraud hotline agent is Connor, Jake, Jeff, Karen, Karie or Loryn, or any of our 25 fraud analysts assigned to our special investigations unit statewide, callers know within seconds that they have reached a committed, respectful professional.

These same agents also receive and process fraud referral forms submitted by sources who report their suspicions via a Report Fraud link on bwc.ohio.gov. Just last month, for example, the convictions of Jason C. Smith and Walter M. Patterson were the result of fraud referral forms submitted to our hotline.

If you’re concerned about the alleged fraudster discovering your identity, rest assured. Your identity may remain either anonymous or confidential, depending on your preference. In addition, you don’t need to prove any facts or even have 100 percent confidence in your suspicion. You need only to suspect that fraud may have occurred or continues to occur. We’ll take care of the rest.

We look forward to hearing from you, so give us a call at 1-800-644-6292 if you suspect fraud. We will conduct the investigation and determine the facts. Together, we are successfully combatting workers’ compensation fraud in Ohio – one call and referral form at a time.

Thank you for your support!

Cleveland-area bartender served felony conviction for workers’ comp fraud

Euclid woman owes BWC more than $25K in restitution

A Cleveland-area bartender must reimburse the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) more than $25,000 after pleading guilty Tuesday to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud.

BWC learned in late 2016 that Euclid resident Clarice L. Ward was not attending her physical therapy appointments for her workplace injury and that the BWC-contracted company managing her care couldn’t reach her. As BWC investigated her case, the agency received an anonymous tip that Ward was working at Final Score Bar in Willowick, Ohio, while collecting BWC disability benefits.

“Ms. Ward would not cooperate with our investigators, so we interviewed her former employer and obtained evidence proving her fraudulent activity,” said Jim Wernecke, director of BWC’s special investigations department.

Ward, 40, pleaded guilty Tuesday in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, where the judge sentenced her to six months in prison, suspended for five years of community control, and ordered her to pay BWC $26,578 in restitution.

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