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Five Northeast Ohioans convicted of work comp fraud

Four claimants and one employer from northeast Ohio were sentenced in November for defrauding the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC).

The cases bring the year’s total convictions for BWC’s special investigations department (SID) to 121.

“BWC is in the business of caring for injured workers and promoting safe workplaces, not doling out thousands of dollars to cheaters,” said SID Director Jim Wernecke. “We’ll return these funds to where they belong and turn our attention to others working the system to avoid paying their share or to collect payments they don’t deserve.”

Among those convicted last month:

Geoffrey Cigany, of Chardon, Ohio, pleaded guilty Nov. 8 to a first-degree misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud for working while receiving BWC benefits. An anonymous allegation led to an investigation that found Cigany worked as a handyman/carpenter for WC Gotts Holdings, Inc. while receiving benefits between March 2014 and September 2014. Cigany paid restitution in full in the amount of $8,499. A Franklin County judge ordered Cigany to pay a fine and waived court costs.

Harvey Short, dba ASAP Transport, of Garfield Heights, Ohio, was convicted Nov. 16 of a second-degree misdemeanor count of failure to comply for falsifying his workers’ compensation certificate of coverage. The certificate raised suspicion after Short provided it to a local company as proof of coverage because it showed a different policy number than the one he provided the prior year. Short admitted to falsifying the certificate and was ordered by a Garfield Heights Municipal Court judge to pay restitution of $150 and court fees.

Laitanya Dinkins, of Euclid, Ohio, pleaded guilty Nov. 2 to a first-degree misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud for working while receiving BWC benefits. A database cross match with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services tipped investigators off that Dinkins returned to work as a home health aide while receiving BWC benefits. A Franklin County judge sentenced Dinkins to 90 days in jail (suspended) and three years of community control. She was also ordered to pay restitution of $3,716.

Christopher Gattarello, of Lyndhurst, Ohio, pleaded guilty Nov. 22 to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud for working while receiving benefits from BWC. The investigation began after a claims representative noted construction noise in the background during every phone conversation with Gattarello about his injury claim. Investigators found Gattarello, the owner of several Cleveland-area garbage-hauling companies, returned to work as a driver/heavy equipment operator. Gattarello was sentenced in a Franklin County courtroom to 186 days in jail with credit for time served. He was already serving 57-months in prison on federal charges of money laundering and violating the Clean Air Act. Read more about his case and view surveillance video here.

Timothy S. Lumsden, of Avon Lake, Ohio, pleaded guilty to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud for working while receiving BWC benefits. Acting on a tip in 2015, BWC investigators determined Lumsden had returned to work as an independent carpenter at the Federal Knitting Mills Building in Cleveland while collecting temporary total disability benefits. A Franklin County judge ordered Lumsden to pay BWC $5,385 in restitution. He also sentenced Lumsden to 11 months in jail (suspended) and community control for three years.

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


Spotlight: Our college interns

By Jeff Baker, Program Administrator, BWC Special Investigations Department

In recognition of International Fraud Awareness Week 2017, we are highlighting careers in criminal investigations, especially those that commence with the study of criminology, criminal justice, law enforcement, digital forensics or data analytics.

History:  BWC’s Special Investigations Department (SID) created its college relations program in 1995 to promote the study and practice of criminology, criminal justice, law enforcement and public administration. On college and university campuses throughout Ohio (and beyond), SID staff members exchange insights with students, faculty and staff members on how to combat crime.

Since the program began 20 years ago, SID has recruited, selected and trained more than 300 paid interns and unpaid externs. Many have gone on to become law enforcement officers, criminal investigators, special agents, digital forensic analysts, assistant special agents in charge and special agents in charge. We currently employ in full time positions, thirteen graduates from our SID college internship program.

On Campus: BWC representatives travel to colleges and universities to meet with candidates. For example, on Nov. 14, BWC was represented at Bowling Green State University by SID Special Agent in Charge Craig Matthews and BWC Human Capital Management Analyst Megan Lentz.

They participated in a job fair specifically targeted toward criminal justice majors. Matthews described the internship program in the special investigations department at the Toledo service office and Lentz explained the application process.

Panel Discussion:  For two hours on Nov. 15, two investigative professionals, Taylor Scarberry and Paul Balzer, participated in our agency’s second panel event where five current permanent employees who started out at BWC as interns discussed their experiences with our current interns. Moderated by Megan Lentz, these successful professionals painted a picture of what it is like to permanently come on board with our agency.

The former SID interns described their success and career paths working in specialized units, including the intelligence and special investigations units (SIUs), as well the health care provider team and regional claimant SIU.

Megan Lentz, Kayla Michel, Luke Bogner, Nathan LaChappelle, Taylor Scarberry and Paul Balzer

They described their many important responsibilities as a college intern with SID. They also mentioned what they did not do, such as getting coffee or food for their co-workers, running any errand, or any other trivial activity.

Panelist Taylor Scarberry: Taylor started his career with BWC in November 2012 as an exemplary college intern with the Columbus SIU. On August 22, 2016, he commenced his permanent employment with BWC as a Criminal Investigator with the Southeast Regional Claimant SIU, assigned to the Cambridge service office. He reports to special agent in charge Scott Lape, a former SID college intern.

During today’s panel discussion, Taylor offered the following knowledge, understanding and wisdom:

“Following my experience as a college intern with the Special Investigations Department and obtaining my Bachelor’s degree in Criminology from The Ohio State University, it was important to me to find a career in criminal justice.  I discovered quickly during my internship that criminal justice was something I was passionate about and saw myself establishing a career in.  BWC provided me that opportunity and the team atmosphere within the SID is something I enjoy being a part of every day.”

Panelist Paul Balzer: Paul started his career with BWC in 2010 while a student at The Ohio State University. Following his internship, he joined BWC full-time as a criminal investigator with health care provider team (HCPT) in December 2011. On October 7, 2012, Paul was promoted to special agent with the HCPT. On Nov. 28, 2016, he was promoted to fraud analyst with the intelligence unit, a team supervised by a former SID college intern, special agent in charge Eric Brown.

As an experienced panelist who has already earned multiple promotions, Paul offered the following recollections and insights:

“I had no idea what this agency did or that it even existed. But the synopsis I read about the internship combined all three things I had wanted to do – work in health care, computer science and criminology. In my current position, I want to continue to make an impact. There are a lot of challenges in the criminal justice system, but we can still make an impact and improve the lives of others. I hope we continue to use critical resources in the most efficient manner possible to stop fraud, because fraud just drives up costs for the entire system.”

Reasons for Ongoing Success: The SID college relations program has been successful in hiring interns with a variety of backgrounds, majors and career goals who quickly become vital assets to BWC’s efforts to fight workers’ compensation fraud. We solicit and heed feedback from our interns to continually improve our program.

The Future: If you know of any students that would be a great fit in our program, please encourage them to submit an application via our Future Opportunities posting. We have an intern position that we are looking to fill right now and we are using the Future Opportunities posting to select our applications. Additionally, we have the specific intern positions posted:

Categories: Uncategorized

Northeast Ohio man reports crime, gets arrested

Stark County tree service owner convicted of work comp fraud

COLUMBUS — When James Glen Willis called police to report a theft from his vehicle in May, police made a quick arrest — of Willis himself.


Willis, of Jackson Twp. in Stark County, apparently didn’t know there was a warrant out for his arrest for committing workers’ compensation fraud. He spent three days in jail and pleaded guilty to the first-degree misdemeanor on May 30 in the Stark County Court of Common Pleas. A judge ordered him to two years of good behavior in lieu of a 180-day jail sentence and gave him credit for three days served.

“Who knows when Mr. Willis would have faced justice had someone not broken into his truck,” said Jim Wernecke, director of BWC’s Special Investigation Department. “Not that I’m glad a crime occurred, but the warrant for his arrest was issued a year ago following his indictment by a Stark County grand jury.”

Willis, 47, is the owner of G and D Tree Service. BWC agents started looking at him in 2013 while investigating one of his employees for workers’ comp fraud. They found Willis’s BWC coverage had lapsed in March that year but he continued to operate without coverage. Willis admitted to having one part-time employee, while BWC surveillance discovered a regular crew of four to six employees.

Willis has since paid BWC $8,000 toward the balance he owes the agency.

In other fraud news, a former Toledo man convicted in May for stealing from BWC was sentenced June 23 to three years of community control in lieu of a 10-month jail sentence.

Herbert Christopher, who pleaded guilty May 4 to fifth-degree felony theft charge, also must pay BWC $32,752 in restitution in monthly payments of at least $200. BWC agents found Christopher working as a home inspector in Tennessee while receiving BWC benefits.

“Our Special Investigations Department is here to ensure our workers’ compensation system is as strong, fair and honest as it can be,” said Wernecke. “Anyone who cheats the system is just raising the costs for everyone else and taking resources needed by those who legitimately need it.”

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

Construction worker’s fraud scheme collapses

A Marion man who claimed to be permanently disabled owes the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) $160,000 after pleading guilty Wednesday to a fourth-degree felony charge of workers’ compensation fraud.

Appearing in a Franklin County courtroom, Jimmie Rankin, 45, was also sentenced to five years of community control for collecting BWC benefits after he had gone back to work in the construction industry and deliberately withheld that information from BWC.

“We found Mr. Rankin working as a subcontractor and getting paid with cash and checks made out to other people so he could avoid a paper trail and stay beneath our radar,” said Jim Wernecke, director of BWC’s Special Investigations Department. “But thanks in part to tips from honest citizens, we were able to stop this fraud and bring Mr. Rankin to justice.”

Working with Rankin’s employers, investigators determined Rankin had been employed at least since March 2011, a little more than three years after his workplace injury and while he was collecting temporary disability benefits. He later secured permanent total disability benefits from BWC and, while working, collected those benefits from June 2012 to May 2016.

A judged warned Rankin that if he violates the terms of his community control, he would serve 18 months in prison.

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

Tough sanctions for roofer in workers’ comp fraud case

petrickThe owner of a Sandusky roofing company who pleaded guilty to workers’ compensation fraud in September must pay nearly $27,000 in restitution to the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation and serve five years probation, according to his sentence Nov. 9 in the Erie County Court of Common Pleas.

A judge also warned Steve Petrick, Jr., that he would be jailed for six months if he fails to meet the terms of his probation. Besides monthly payments on his restitution, those terms call for Petrick to obtain and maintain full-time verifiable employment within 30 days of his sentencing. He also must obtain written permission from his probation officer before traveling out of state, and he can’t operate a motor vehicle prior to showing proof of a valid driver’s license and insurance to the Erie County Adult Probation Department.

Petrick, owner/operator of Steve Petrick Roofing, caught the attention of BWC’s Special Investigations Department after an anonymous tipster alleged he was operating his business without the required coverage.

BWC’s Employer Compliance Department attempted to assist Petrick with bringing his policy into compliance, but he claimed he had no employees and continued operating his business without coverage.

The case was forwarded to BWC fraud investigators after an injury claim was filed against the policy while the policy was lapsed. The investigation and surveillance proved Petrick Roofing had been in continuous operation with employees. Petrick again failed to come into compliance following an interview with agents.

Petrick pleaded guilty to a fifth-degree felony count of attempted workers’ compensation fraud Sept. 28.

To report suspected cases of workers’ compensation fraud, call 1-800-644-6292 or visit

Groveport woman cheated BWC out of $51,000

Health care worker sentenced on workers’ comp fraud charges Thursday

danielle-cheeks-booking-photoA Central Ohio woman must pay more than $51,000 in restitution to the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation after pleading guilty Thursday to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud.

Danielle Cheeks, 41, of Groveport, must repay BWC $51,590 and serve five years probation in lieu of a six-month jail sentence for fraudulent behavior dating back to 2010, according to her Nov. 3 sentence in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas.

BWC’s Special Investigations Department started looking at Cheeks after a BWC claims service specialist (CSS) suspected Cheeks was under-reporting her work wages in order to receive higher living maintenance wage-loss benefits from BWC. The CSS told investigators he had requested Cheeks on multiple occasions to submit her paystubs but she never complied.

Investigators determined Cheeks was working as a home health aide for three private companies, as well as for herself as an independent provider for Medicaid recipients, as early as August 2010.  This employment conflicted consistently with BWC benefits she received from August 2010 through November 2014.

To report suspected cases of workers’ compensation fraud, call 1-800-644-6292 or visit


Categories: Uncategorized

BWC SID: Annual in-service training – Part 2 of 3

By Jeff Baker, Program Administrator, BWC Special Investigations Department

In our constant quest for improvement, all members of the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation Special Investigations Department (SID) gathered on September 14, 2016 at our Mansfield service office to successfully complete annual in-service training.

sid-trg-picLed by SID Director Jim Wernecke, we shared investigative successes, learned how to use new technology we recently secured, and committed to operational strategies for even greater effectiveness.

We’ve found that one of the chief ways to find new or alternate methods of fraud detection and investigation is to consult counterpart agencies. Such collaboration allows SID to examine its own methods to see where improvements can be made, how tasks can be accomplished more efficiently, and what new strategies or technologies can be used in the course of an investigation.

sidpic2This is why Director Wernecke invited Ron Davitt, a talented Training Officer with the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy (OPOTA), to be a keynote speaker. In two hours he enhanced our awareness and skills in conducting “De-Escalation and Mental Health” to increase our effectiveness in planning and conducting criminal investigations.

Director Wernecke presented Training Officer Davitt with a certificate of appreciation, noting that it is an honor for us to recognize, praise and thank him. We respect and appreciate all of our law enforcement colleagues for their dedication to serving and protecting the citizens of the state of Ohio.

You can read the first article about the September 14 event here and our most recent annual report here.

Categories: Uncategorized