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Posts Tagged ‘workers’ comp’

Cheating BWC proves costly to workers, business owners

A North Canton woman convicted in May of workers’ compensation fraud must reimburse the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation nearly $22,000 for collecting benefits while working as a home health aide for nearly two years.

A Franklin County judge on Wednesday also sentenced Diana S. Herrick to five years probation in lieu of an eight-month jail sentence for committing the fifth-degree felony. BWC’s Special Investigations Department (SID) found Herrick provided numerous activities for two individuals while claiming to be too injured to work, including household chores, meal preparation, cleaning and shopping.

“I cannot stress this message enough: Cheating BWC will only cost you more in the long run,” said SID director Jim Wernecke. “It could land you a significant financial debt and criminal record, as well as damage to your reputation and potential for future employment.”

Tyrone Bonner

Also this week, the owner of a Columbus security business pleaded guilty to failure to comply with workers’ compensation laws, a second-degree misdemeanor, after investigators found he under-reported his payroll for four years in order to pay less in BWC premiums. A Franklin County judge on Monday ordered Tyrone Bonner of Dayton to pay BWC $9,527 in restitution.

On the same day in a different Franklin County courtroom, Michael Strickland of Sandusky County pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud after BWC found him delivering mail while collecting injured-worker benefits. He paid BWC $5,096 in restitution prior to his court appearance.

Ghandi Faraj

In other news, SID reported closing several criminal cases in June and one in May not previously publicized.

  • Ghandi Faraj of Lorain pleaded guilty June 30 to a first-degree misdemeanor of workers’ compensation fraud after BWC found him operating a Quizno’s restaurant without BWC coverage when one of his employees filed a claim for a workplace injury. A judge sentenced Faraj to two years of non-reporting probation and ordered him to pay BWC $10,487 in restitution and stay compliant with workers’ comp requirements.
  • Darrin Armstrong of Cincinnati pleaded guilty June 15 to a first-degree misdemeanor theft charge after SID found him using his wife’s BWC debit card multiple times after her death. The investigation found 62 transactions between December 2015 and February 2016 totaling over $4,400. A Hamilton County judge placed Armstrong on eleven months probation and ordered him to reimburse BWC $2,715.
  • Latoria Johnson of Columbus pleaded guilty on June 27 to a misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud after BWC found her working at Worldwide Marketing, Hot Topic and Kroger while simultaneously collecting temporary total disability benefits. She reimbursed BWC $5,307.27 prior to sentencing.
  • Cindi Hackney of Columbus pleaded guilty June 13 to one count of failure to comply, a second-degree misdemeanor, after BWC found her operating her pizza restaurant without BWC coverage. She was ordered to pay a fine and court costs totaling $163. She also paid approximately $5,000 toward her BWC debt.
  • Richard Allison of Columbus pleaded guilty to a first-degree misdemeanor of workers’ compensation fraud after investigators found him working for five separate employers over 13 months while collecting BWC benefits. A judge on June 6 sentenced Allison to five years probation in lieu of a six-month jail term and ordered him to pay $5,149 in restitution to BWC.
  • Mohamad Awad of Toledo, doing business as Everlasting LLC, paid almost $1,000 toward his BWC balance before pleading guilty June 5 in a Toledo courtroom to failure to comply, a second-degree misdemeanor. BWC agents had previously made multiple attempts to bring Awad into workers’ compensation compliance but were unsuccessful.
  • Steve Makris of Canton paid BWC $23,943 in restitution after pleading guilty May 26 to a first-degree misdemeanor of workers’ compensation fraud. Investigators found Makris formed a new business, Eagle Industrial Painting, and collected a salary while receiving benefits from BWC.

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

Former police officer indicted on work comp fraud and other charges related to shooting incident

A former Ohio police officer is facing multiple charges, including inducing panic, forgery and workers’ compensation fraud, after claiming and later recanting that he was shot in the arm during a traffic stop, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced this week.

A Tuscarawas County grand jury indicted Bryan Eubanks, 37, of Cumberland, Ohio, on June 29. It charged the fired 14-year veteran of the Newcomerstown Police Department with the following:

  • One count of inducing panic, a felony of the fifth degree;
  • One count of making false alarms, a felony of the fifth degree;
  • Two counts of tampering with evidence, felonies of the third degree;
  • One count of forgery, a felony of the fifth degree, and
  • One count of workers’ compensation fraud, a misdemeanor of the first degree.

The charges of inducing panic and making false alarms each carry two firearm specifications.

An investigation conducted by the Tuscarawas County Sheriff’s Office found that on April 11, 2017, then-Officer Eubanks shot himself while on duty, but claimed he was shot by a man in a vehicle after stopping the car for a traffic violation.

“The fictional story that this defendant is accused of concocting led to a response involving local, state, and federal authorities, and an Ohio Blue Alert was issued to put the entire state on alert,” said Attorney General DeWine. “Considerable resources were used to investigate the claims, and there must be consequences for needlessly causing such serious alarm.”

Additionally, an investigation by the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation found that Eubanks forged workers’ compensation documents to apply for benefits related to his injury.

According to the TimesReporter.com, Eubanks told investigators he made up the story to cover up a failed suicide attempt. He said he had been struggling emotionally following a murder investigation last year.

Eubanks’ arraignment is scheduled for July 17.

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 bwc.ohio.gov.

Coal miner digs himself a hole in fraud scheme

A former coal miner from northeast Ohio owes the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) more than $40,000 after BWC investigators found him creating phony employment records to secure BWC cash benefits.

Steven R. Kornbau, 50, of Mahoning County, pleaded guilty March 28 to a fifth-degree felony charge of workers’ compensation fraud in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas. A judge ordered Kornbau to reimburse BWC $40,514 and sentenced him to six months in jail, which he then suspended for five years of community control.

“As Mr. Kornbau’s case shows, some people get creative in trying to cheat the workers’ compensation system” said BWC Administrator/CEO Sarah Morrison. “But that’s no match for our investigators and claims personnel who are trained to detect suspicious claims and stop fraud when they see it. The funds we recover from this case will return to where they belong — taking care of injured workers and creating safe workplaces across this state.”

Kornbau’s case centers around “working wage-loss benefits” he received from Dec. 1, 2014 until April 2, 2016. These benefits are designed to make up the difference in wages between the injured worker’s job at the time of injury and the job following recovery if it pays less.

Kornbau, a coal miner when he was injured in 2009, was supposed to be working, or at least actively looking for work, to receive the benefits. Instead, Kornbau created a fictitious company called Anderson’s Windows and Doors and submitted phony payroll records to BWC as evidence he was working. BWC staff noticed inconsistencies in the records in the summer of 2015 and contacted the agency’s Special Investigations Department.

Investigators quickly determined the company was fake, and Kornbau confessed as much during questioning.

In other recent fraud cases:

  • Robert Lester, of Columbus, pleaded guilty April 4 to a first-degree misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud for filing two false claims for BWC benefits. Lester filed the claims stating he was injured at work, when, in fact, he was not employed at the time of his alleged injuries. A judge sentenced him to 13 days in jail and gave him credit for 13 days served.
  • Shawn Lines, 41, of Ashtabula, pleaded guilty April 3 to a first-degree misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud for working while receiving temporary disability benefits. A Franklin County judge ordered Lines to reimburse BWC $5,370 in minimum payments of at least $125 a month.
  • Ronnie Simmons Jr., of Cleveland, owner of Simmons Adult Care, pleaded guilty March 29 to a minor misdemeanor count of attempted workers’ compensation fraud for failing to carry proper workers’ compensation insurance. Following a judge’s order, he paid his outstanding balance of $3,587 to BWC.

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

Fulton County siblings ordered to reimburse BWC $6K+

Pair took late father’s monthly cash benefits

A judge has ordered a Fulton County sister and brother to reimburse $6,657 to the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation for taking their father’s BWC benefits in the immediate months following his death in 2014.

Cecilia Williams, 36, of Fayette, pleaded guilty Dec. 20 in the Fulton County Court of Common Pleas to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud. She was sentenced Feb. 27 to two years of community control and a suspended jail term of seven months. She also must take a theft education course.

Her brother, James Miller, 35, of Wauseon, was sentenced March 17 to a suspended sentence of six months in jail and a $100 fine after pleading guilty to attempted workers compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor. Both have already paid restitution to BWC.

BWC’s Special Investigations Department learned in 2014 that Williams’ and Miller’s father had passed away on March 15 that year, but no one had reported his death or returned his BWC cash benefits to the agency. Agents later discovered that a total of $6,657 had been withdrawn from ATMs between the dates of March 27, 2014, and July 17, 2014.

Williams admitted to agents that she withdrew the funds using her deceased father’s debit card for personal monetary gain and then provided half of the money to her brother.

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

Gamble on work comp fraud comes up lemons

A Toledo woman who managed a gambling storefront that was raided by state agents in 2014 pleaded guilty March 21 to workers’ compensation fraud for working there while collecting injured worker benefits from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC).

Jennifer E. Garner, 57, pleaded guilty to the first-degree misdemeanor in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas. A judge ordered Garner to pay BWC $7,645 in restitution and sentenced her to five years of community control and a suspended jail term of four months. Garner paid $1,000 prior to her guilty plea.

“Trying to cheat BWC is never a safe bet,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Sarah Morrison. “Our Special Investigations Department is dedicated to rooting out fraud and bringing criminals to justice.”

Acting on a tip, BWC investigators found Garner managing and working at the Surf’s Up Cyberlounge in Oregon, Ohio, through most of 2014 while she collected benefits from BWC for a job injury that purportedly left her permanently and totally disabled.

On Dec. 18, 2014, agents with the Attorney General’s Office, Ohio Casino Control Commission and Oregon Police Department executed a search warrant at Surf’s Up and five other similar storefronts in northwest Ohio on suspicion of operating as illegal casinos. Gaming machines were removed from each of the six locations, but no arrests were made. Prosecutors ultimately declined to pursue the case against Surf’s Up.

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

Try as he might, tree trimmer can’t cheat BWC and get away with it

Akron man earns second conviction for fraudulent activity

An Akron tree trimmer with a history of cheating the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) owes more than $17,000 in restitution to the state agency following his guilty plea last month in a Summit County courtroom.

Matthew Mueller, 46, of Mueller Tree & Landscape, pleaded guilty Feb. 16 in the Summit County Court of Common Pleas to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a fourth degree felony. The conviction, Mueller’s second on similar charges since 2005, followed a BWC investigation that found Mueller under-reported his payroll to lower his BWC premiums by thousands of dollars.

“It’s unfortunate that one criminal conviction isn’t enough for some people to learn a lesson,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Sarah Morrison. “The funds we recover from Mr. Mueller will go to their proper place — taking care of injured workers and creating safe workplaces across this state.”

A judge sentenced Mueller to 24 months of community control and ordered him to pay $17,366 in restitution to BWC. Mueller also must bring his business into compliance with Ohio workers’ compensation law.

The employer fraud unit of BWC’s Special Investigations Department got a tip in 2012 that Mueller was intentionally under-reporting his payroll. BWC found he was misclassifying employees as subcontractors and advised him how to correctly report his payroll. Three years later, however, BWC found Mueller misclassifying his employees and again under-reporting his payroll, this time by nearly $40,000 for the first half of 2015 alone.

Mueller’s earlier troubles with BWC resulted in a guilty plea in August 2005 to forgery, tampering with records and failure to pay workers’ compensation coverage. He was sentenced to eight months incarceration, suspended, and two years of probation.

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