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Ohio BWC investigative unit nets 5 convictions in May

Investigators with the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation landed five convictions in May of individuals caught cheating the workers’ compensation system or deceptively obtaining prescription narcotics.

Those convicted included one woman who was cashing in on a dead man’s injured worker’s benefits, another who falsely claimed she was poisoned at work, two men who were found working while receiving BWC benefits and another who hoodwinked two physicians into writing overlapping prescriptions for painkillers.

“Investigating and putting an end to fraud helps protect the benefits of injured workers and keep employers’ premiums down,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Sarah Morrison. “That’s why BWC is so proactive in pursuing all employers, medical providers, workers and others who are committing fraud.”

The BWC’s Special Investigations Department (SID) has netted 45 convictions so far this year. May’s convictions include:

Darlean McCurdy (Hamilton County) – McCurdy pleaded guilty May 10 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud after investigators photographed her using a deceased BWC claimant’s EBT card to withdraw cash from several ATMs.

A Hamilton County common pleas court judge on May 24 ordered McCurdy to perform 100 hours of community service, serve five years probation and repay the BWC $7,321.16, plus $2,265 in investigative costs. She was also sentenced to a year in prison but only if she violates her parole.

Jennifer Martin (Morrow County) – Martin filed for BWC benefits after claiming to police someone at work poisoned her by putting bug spray in her beverage. A police investigation found her claim to be false.

Martin pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud May 10 in Mason Municipal Court. A judge sentenced her to one year probation and ordered her to repay the BWC $2,143.50 for its investigation and pay court costs of $420. The judge also sentenced her to 180 days in jail, which he then suspended.

James Calvey (Cuyahoga County) — Calvey pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud May 17 after investigators filmed him working as a tow truck driver while receiving Temporary Total Disability Benefits from the BWC. A Franklin County common pleas judge sentenced Calvey to 10 days in jail, to be served in August, and fined him $100.

Carol Hoover (Pike County) – Hoover pleaded guilty May 10 in Clark County Common Pleas Court to one count of deception to obtain a dangerous drug, a felony of the fifth degree. She was sentenced June 1 to two years of community control and fined $1,000.

BWC investigators became suspicious after reviewing records indicating Hoover received narcotic prescriptions with overlapping fill dates from two different physicians. When interviewed, the physicians said they felt deceived and would not have prescribed the narcotics had they been aware of the other prescribing physician.

Spiro Frangos (Mahoning County) — Frangos pleaded guilty to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a fifth degree felony, on May 9, after investigators found him working as a laborer while receiving BWC benefits. A Franklin County common pleas judge sentenced Frangos to two years of community control.

Wayne County realtor pleads guilty to workers’ comp and social security fraud

James Miller of West Salem (Wayne County) recently pleaded guilty to workers’ compensation and social security fraud and has been ordered to repay more than $30,000.

BWC’s Special Investigations Department began investigating Miller after receiving an allegation that he was working as a realtor while receiving living maintenance wage loss statements. This benefit is available to an injured worker who has completed a rehabilitation plan but continues to have physical restrictions and experiences a wage loss upon return to work.

Internet research showed Miller had listings and recent sales with Howard Hanna and employment and bank records revealed he had received numerous paychecks from the company. However, he had been submitting paperwork to BWC showing he had no earnings.

Miller admitted to earning the money as a realtor but claimed that his expenses as a realtor were so great that he earned $0.  However, as part of his benefits, BWC had paid for these expenses previously and were not out-of-pocket expenses to Miller. Additionally, it was discovered that Miller was receiving monthly benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA).

Miller entered a guilty plea to two felony counts of theft and two felony counts of tampering with records in an Ashland County courtroom. The plea represents two counts for BWC and two for SSA.

The judge sentenced Miller to 150 days of house arrest with GPS monitoring for each count, which will run concurrently. Additionally, Miller will serve four years of probation supervision and 250 hours of community service.  Conditions of community control include the payment of restitution to BWC in the amount of $11,081.68 and $20,878.79 to the SSA. Miller was also ordered to pay a fine of $ 1,000.

He will face 18 months of prison time if he fails to abide by the sanctions imposed by the court.

Fairfield County employer admits to faking workers’ comp coverage

newellLANCASTER – The owner of a Fairfield County excavating company has admitted to falsifying his workers’ compensation insurance coverage certificate in order to submit bid proposals to the city of Lancaster. William Newell, of Pleasantville, pleaded guilty to workers’ compensation fraud and must repay more than $5,000 to the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC).

“Businesses in Ohio are required to maintain workers’ compensation coverage to protect their employees and care for them if injuries occur,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Steve Buehrer. “Falsifying a coverage certificate is not only against the law, it’s unfair to honest employers that are placed at a competitive disadvantage.”

BWC’s Special Investigations Department opened an investigation into Newell after receiving a tip that he submitted an altered BWC certificate of coverage for his business, Bill Newell Excavating, as part of a bid proposal to the city of Lancaster. After the city notified him he needed to obtain coverage in order to submit bids, Newell submitted all outstanding payroll reports to BWC indicating he did not have any employees or payroll. He also paid past due premiums and fees in order to become compliant and receive a valid certificate of coverage.

Through the investigation, BWC’s employer fraud team obtained three additional false certificates that Newell submitted in bid packets during recent years. When interviewed, Newell initially denied having any knowledge of the false certificates but later admitted creating and submitting them. During the interview Newell stated that he always had employees, but later stated he did not have employees and hired sub-contractors.

The investigation ultimately found that Newell did have employees and that he underreported his payroll in order to avoid paying premiums.

Newell entered a guilty plea to one fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud on Nov. 17 in the Fairfield County Court of Common Pleas. He was sentenced to a six month prison term, suspended for three years of community control. The conditions of his community control include a restitution payment of $5,404.90 to BWC, and a continuing obligation to provide the court proof of his premium payments.

To report suspected workers’ compensation fraud, call 1-800-644-6292 or visit bwc.ohio.gov. Check out our latest cases at ohiobwcfraud.wordpress.com, follow Fraud Fridays on Twitter @OhioBWCFraud, or join in the conversation at facebook.com/ohiobwcfraud. View and share BWC’s workers’ comp fraud awareness video on our YouTube channel.

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