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Posts Tagged ‘Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation’

Ohio carpenter nailed for work comp fraud

Pomeroy man one of two southeastern Ohioans convicted of fraud last week

A southeastern Ohio man must reimburse the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) more than $23,000 after investigators found him working several jobs while collecting injured worker’s benefits.

Ernest Shawn Baker, 45, of Pomeroy in Meigs County, also must serve five years of community control after pleading guilty to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud Nov. 29 in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas. His probation could terminate sooner upon full payment of $23,128 in restitution.

“We discovered that Mr. Baker went back to work as a carpenter soon after his injury in 2014, and he deliberately didn’t tell us,” said Jim Wernecke, director of BWC’s special investigations department. “We interviewed union officials and others and found he had worked for a dozen different employers while defrauding our agency.”

In another fraud case, an Athens County man on BWC benefits since 1997 has lost his benefits after investigators found him working again for cash under the table.

Mark McIntosh, 51, of Millfield, pleaded guilty Nov. 28 in a Franklin County courtroom to a first-degree misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud. A judge fined McIntosh $100, then suspended it, and declined to order restitution because of McIntosh’s age and financial situation.

McIntosh worked as a log seller and chain saw operator when he was injured on the job in January 1997. Acting on a tip, BWC investigators found him overseeing a firewood processing plant and hauling firewood while concurrently receiving permanent total disability benefits.

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

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Cleveland convict adds work comp fraud to criminal record

State crimes followed 2015 conviction on several federal charges

A Cleveland garbage hauler and construction worker serving time in a federal prison for fraud, money laundering and violating the Clean Air Act pleaded guilty to workers’ compensation fraud last week.

Christopher Gattarello, 53, pleaded guilty Nov. 22 to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud for working while receiving temporary disability benefits from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. A judge in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas sentenced Gattarello to 186 days in jail with credit for time served.

“This was pretty easy detective work on our part, thanks to our customer claims staff,” said Jim Wernecke, director of BWC’s special investigations department. “Every time our claims representatives telephoned Gattarello about his injury claim, they could hear construction noise in the background. We simply followed up from there.”

Wernecke noted that Gattarello’s fraud against BWC started in March 2015, the same month he was convicted on the federal charges. BWC investigators determined Gattarello worked as a driver/heavy equipment operator through Aug. 16 that year and again from November 2015 through June 2016 while concurrently receiving BWC benefits.

Gattarello, the owner of several Cleveland-area garbage-hauling companies, was sentenced in June this year to 57-months in prison for ordering the 2012 demolition of the asbestos-laden National Acme Building in Cleveland’s Glenville neighborhood. Gattarello had been leasing the building and storing garbage there. The demolition released harmful toxins into the air near several homes and a school.

In a related case, Gattarello also was convicted in 2015 for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering for defrauding a Louisiana company out of nearly $1.2 million. He was accused of submitting false invoices for work his companies never performed, then using more than $12,000 of ill-gotten money to pay off his personal credit card.

Other news
In a separate BWC fraud case last week, another Cleveland-area man pleaded guilty to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud for working while receiving BWC benefits.

A Franklin County judge on Nov. 22 ordered Timothy S. Lumsden, 50, of Avon Lake, to pay BWC $5,385 in restitution. He also sentenced Lumsden to 11 months in jail (suspended) and community control for three years.

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.

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

Thanks for your allegations, especially 34,634 calls to our Fraud Hotline!

By Jeff Baker, Program Administrator, BWC Special Investigations Department

In observance of Thanksgiving, we are giving thanks for the vigilance of everyday citizens and their willingness to detect and report suspected fraud committed against the Ohio workers’ compensation system.

We realize that such partnerships are necessary to achieve our fraud prevention goals. Since the creation of our Special Investigations Department (SID) in 1993, tens of thousands of our allegations have been furnished by external sources. Each and every reported allegation is entered by an agent into our secure database and reviewed. Effective this week, as a result of calls to our BWC Fraud Hotline, 34,634 allegations have helped us achieve over 1.7 billion in savings.

An investigative professional will promptly answer your call and conduct a brief and effective interview. These agents have years of investigative knowledge, skills and experience securing the essential information from sources like you. Whether your fraud hotline agent is Jake, Taylor, Karen, Connor, Jeff, or any of eight of our most experienced fraud analysts assigned to special investigations units (SIUs) statewide, you will know within seconds that you have reached a committed, successful professional.

Your fraud hotline agent will know and promptly secure the information needed by our teams of 125 SID employees. You do not need to have proven any facts; you do not even need to have 100 percent confidence in your suspicion. You need only to suspect that fraud may have occurred or continue to occur. We will conduct the investigation and determine the facts. Your Fraud Hotline call initiates the process, and in as few as five minutes.

A suspicion can also be reported by means of any of the following: an “after hours” message to our Fraud Hotline voicemail 614.728.2617, online, an email to our secure BWC Allegations@bwc.state.oh.us account, the U.S. Postal Service or in-person at any BWC claims office. Calling the BWC Fraud Hotline is the most interactive and direct way that you, our partners in fraud prevention and detection, can help.

So, thank you for your 34,634 (and counting) calls to our Fraud Hotline! We are indeed thankful for each one.

Fraud scheme doesn’t float for Ohio swimming pool business owner

November 3, 2017 1 comment

A Mansfield-area businessman must pay more than $33,000 in restitution to the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation for filing phony records and scheming to avoid his debt for past premiums.

Roger L. Graszl, the owner of Premier Gunite Unlimited Pools & Spas in Lexington, Ohio, also was sentenced to five years probation Wednesday in the Richland County Court of Common Pleas. The sentencing followed his guilty plea Sept. 13 to two third-degree felony counts of tampering with records.

“We discovered Mr. Graszl wasn’t carrying workers’ compensation insurance after one of his employees was injured and filed for benefits,” said Dan Fodor, assistant director of BWC’s special investigations department. “We tried multiple times to bring Mr. Graszl into compliance, but he failed to cooperate.”

Fodor said Graszl also tried several times to obtain a certificate of coverage from BWC using fictitious information on his application.

“He thought he could sneak in under our radar and obtain a certificate so he could continue to operate his business,” Fodor said. “Obviously, it didn’t work. It’s pretty hard to fool BWC and our agents.”

Ohio law requires businesses to carry workers’ compensation coverage.

Graszl owes BWC $27,516 for past premiums and $5,833 for the cost of the agency’s investigation.

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

Toledo woman convicted for taking late boyfriend’s work comp benefits

Four others convicted in recent fraud cases

A Toledo woman who cashed her late boyfriend’s work comp benefits for more than a year after his death must reimburse the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation more than $18,000 or serve 10 months in prison, a Lucas County judge ruled Oct. 5.

The judge ordered Suzette Hedrick, 58, to reimburse BWC $18,576 and serve five years of probation after she pleaded guilty to attempted grand theft, a fifth-degree felony.

“Our investigation found that Ms. Hedrick deliberately withheld from BWC that her boyfriend had died, which enabled her to illicitly use his electronic benefits card for personal gain,” said Jim Wernecke, director of BWC’s special investigations department (SID). “We understand the financial hardship some people experience following the loss of a loved one, but that doesn’t diminish the seriousness of this crime.”

An internal claims specialist discovered last year that Hedrick’s boyfriend, who was on permanent total disability, had passed away on Oct. 3, 2015, but someone was still withdrawing his monthly benefits. The agency stopped paying benefits immediately. Hedrick admitted to agents that she used the card to pay her bills, and she accepted responsibility.

In other news:

  • Elizabeth Brown, of Groveport, Ohio, pleaded guilty Oct. 12 to one misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud for working while receiving BWC benefits. Investigators discovered Brown had worked in customer service for four separate companies from September 2015 to January 2016 while on temporary disability benefits. After her plea, she reimbursed BWC $3,905.
  • Timothy Snedeker, of Newark, Ohio, was found guilty Oct. 3 of three misdemeanor counts of lapsed coverage for failing to carry workers’ compensation coverage on his business, Tim’s Tree Service. A Newark Municipal Court judge sentenced Snedeker to one year in prison, which he suspended for 90 days probation. Snedeker reimbursed BWC, and his business is now in active compliance.

    Theodore Skwarski, of Cleveland, Ohio, pleaded guilty Sept. 6 to unauthorized use of property/computer system, a second-degree misdemeanor, after BWC investigators found him operating Ted’s Auto Service without proper work comp coverage. A judge sentenced Skwarski to 90 days in jail (suspended), one year of community control and 20 hours of community service to be completed within the next six months. Skwarski told BWC he was no longer operating his business, but investigators discovered otherwise. He entered a payment plan and is currently operating with active coverage.

    Michael Humble, of London, Ohio, pleaded guilty Sept. 6 to a first-degree misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud after BWC found him working while receiving permanent total disability benefits. He was sentenced to one day of jail, which was suspended for the payment of $3,834 in restitution.

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

BWC fraud investigators secure 8 convictions in August

Business owners, claimants and a healthcare provider who attempted to cheat the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) are among eight convictions secured by the agency in August.

The cases bring the year’s total convictions for BWC’s special investigations department (SID) to 100.

“Employer premiums are set aside to care for Ohio’s injured workers,” said SID Director Jim Wernecke. “We’re holding employers, medical providers and injured workers who cheat the system accountable to protect those dollars for Ohioans who need assistance until they can return to work.”

Among those convicted last month:

Natoya Finley, dba Close to Home Child Development Center, of Cleveland, Ohio
Finley and Rebecca Barbee-Whitt, co-owner of the child care center, were operating the center without workers ‘compensation coverage. The pair ignored requests from BWC investigators to reinstate the policy. Finley entered into a payment plan July 24 after she was charged with four counts of failure to comply, all second-degree misdemeanors, in the Cleveland Municipal Court. She then withdrew her not guilty pleas and agreed to the Selective Intervention Program. She is required to report monthly compliance with the established payment plan. Barbee-Whitt has a warrant for her arrest for failure to appear on the charges.

Thomas N. Jung, dba Tom’s Industrial Truck Service, of Lima, Ohio
Jung pleaded guilty Aug. 4 in Lima Municipal Court to three counts of failure to comply, all second-degree misdemeanors. BWC’s Employer Fraud Team found Jung was operating his business, Tom’s Industrial Truck Service, with lapsed workers’ compensation coverage. Jung was previously investigated in 2012 for lapsed coverage and before bringing his policy into compliance. Jung’s sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 2. He will not receive jail time if he brings his policy into good standing prior to sentencing.

Mark J. Cothern of Danville, Ohio
Cothern pleaded guilty Aug. 11 in the Knox County Court of Common Pleas to a fifth-degree felony count of attempted workers’ compensation fraud.  BWC’s investigation, which involved surveillance and multiple undercover operations, found that Cothern had worked at the Scoreboard Drive-in performing various duties while receiving temporary total benefits. Cothern was sentenced to 180 days in jail, which was suspended for three years of community control, obtain and maintain full-time employment and repay restitution in the amount of $9,406.46.

Alfred Bowlson of Toledo, Ohio
Bowlson pleaded guilty Aug. 29 in the Franklin County Common Pleas Court to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud. Bowlson reported wages for employment to the State of Ohio for his work as a maintenance person in various apartment complexes in the Toledo area while receiving BWC disability. He was also receiving vocational rehabilitation and indicated he was discouraged at being unemployed and unable to provide for his family. Bowlson was sentenced to non-reporting community control for five years and ordered to pay restitution of $18,501.46 to the BWC. He will serve 11 months in prison if he violates these terms.

Elton Rista, dba ED & R Dining Services, of Avon Lake, Ohio
Rista, owner and operator of Ed & R Dining Services, pleaded guilty to a second-degree misdemeanor count of failure to comply Aug. 18. BWC investigators found Rista was operating his business without workers’ compensation coverage between June 2011 and August 2015. A Lorain County Court of Common Pleas judge sentenced Rista to 90 days in jail (suspended) and two years of non-reporting community control. He must also pay restitution of $9,478, return to compliance with workers’ compensation laws, and pay court costs.

Shardette Nyarko of Columbus, Ohio
Nyarko pleaded guilty Aug. 1 in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor. BWC received an allegation that Nyarko may have filed false BWC claims. The investigation found Nyarko filed three false claims in order to receive BWC benefits. Nyarko filed the claims stating she was injured at work, when in fact, she was not employed at the time of the alleged injuries. A judge fined her $100, then suspended the fine.

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

Ohio man who kept on truckin’ convicted of workers’ comp fraud

A Madison County truck driver who claimed he was permanently disabled from a work injury in 1999 pleaded guilty Wednesday to workers’ compensation fraud after investigators discovered him driving a truck again for another employer.

Michael Humble, 48, must pay $3,834 in restitution to the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC), according to his sentence Wednesday in a Franklin County courtroom. A judge also sentenced Humble to one day in jail, suspended, for the first-degree misdemeanor.

Acting on a tip, BWC’s special investigations department discovered Humble driving a truck in August 2015 for an exterior siding and roofing company while still collecting Permanent Total Disability (PTD) benefits.

Humble’s restitution is based on a time period that investigators proved he was working, not on total benefits received since his date of injury.

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