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Archive for June, 2019

Toledo contractor owes BWC $57K following fraud conviction

Lapsed policy, refusal to cooperate costs Holland man

By Tony Gottschlich, BWC Public Information Officer

A Toledo-area contractor owes the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) nearly $57,000 in restitution after pleading guilty to workers’ compensation fraud in a Toledo courtroom last month.

Eric L. Hughes, 53, of Holland, pleaded guilty to a fourth-degree felony charge of workers’ compensation fraud May 19 after failing to renew his BWC policy despite repeated attempts by the agency to bring him into compliance. A Lucas County judge ordered Holland to pay BWC $56,959 in restitution and serve three years of community control (probation).

“Ducking his legal obligation to protect his workers clearly didn’t pay for Mr. Hughes,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud. “He could have resolved this issue fairly easily when we first contacted him in 2017, and we would have given him a payment plan to boot. Now he’s got a $57,000 debt and a felony record.”

According to BWC’s special investigations department, Hughes worked as a handyman and general contractor on residential and commercial buildings, usually with just one employee. But after securing a sizable contract to replace a roof on a fire-damaged building in 2017, he hired a crew of eight to 10 workers and started the job while his BWC policy was still lapsed. The company that hired Hughes later fired him after learning of the lapse.

A BWC audit in 2018 determined Hughes owed the agency nearly $57,000 in past premiums, based largely off his payroll for the time he worked on the roofing job.

In other news, a Springfield man must pay BWC $13,518 in restitution after agency investigators found him working in a machine shop and at a restaurant while collecting BWC benefits.

Clark Howard, 35, pleaded guilty Tuesday to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud in a Franklin County courtroom.

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

BWC secures six convictions in May

Five Ohio workers and one business owner were convicted in May on workers’ compensation fraud and related charges.

The six convictions raise BWC’s total convictions for the 2019 calendar year to 38.

“When people cheat the BWC system, they are cheating the employers and hard-working Ohioans across this state who play by the rules,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud. “Congratulations to our special investigations department for stopping this fraudulent behavior.”

In order of most recent case, those convicted include:

Bruce Collier of Chardon, Ohio
BWC investigators found Collier working as a self-employed travel agent/owner of Travel Specialist Group while receiving BWC benefits. Collier pleaded guilty May 21 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor. He was sentenced to pay BWC $12,487 in restitution, which he paid at the time of sentencing.

James Nichols of Cleveland, Ohio
BWC investigators found Nichols working as a janitor and office manager while collecting BWC benefits. Nichols pleaded guilty May 13 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor. He was sentenced to 150 days in jail, suspended for two years of community control. He was ordered to pay BWC $3,525 in restitution. He made a $1,000 payment at sentencing.

Deborah Rosenlieb of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio
Rosenlieb pleaded guilty May 9 in Summit County Common Pleas Court to workers’ compensation fraud, a fourth-degree felony, after investigators found her collecting her late father’s BWC benefits for two years. A judge ordered her to pay BWC $29,418 in restitution and serve two years of community service.

Jesse Lemaster, dba Lemaster Tree Care, Springfield, Ohio
Lemaster pleaded guilty May 8 to two counts of failure to comply, both second-degree misdemeanors, for operating his business without a valid BWC policy. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail on each charge, which was suspended pending a July 10 hearing, at which time he is to prove to the court he has valid workers’ compensation coverage.

Natasha Mitchum of Youngstown, Ohio
Mitchum pleaded guilty May 2 in Franklin County Common Pleas Court to workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor, after BWC found her working as a call center employee/customer service representative while receiving disability benefits. She was sentenced to 180 days in jail, suspended for three years of community control, and ordered to pay BWC $1,863 in restitution.

John Griggy of Canton, Ohio
Griggy pleaded guilty May 1 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor, after BWC found him working as a self-employed electrician while receiving BWC benefits. Prior to sentencing, Griggy paid BWC full restitution in the amount of $54,220.

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