Columbus,OH(WorkersCompensation.com) - 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.”
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.
Recovered funds will go back to the State Insurance Fund to care for workers injured in Ohio. The Spe cial Investigations Department Fiscal Year 2016 Annual Reportwas released today, and includes an overview of statistics and strategies for preventing and detecting fraud.
Since its inception in 1993, SID has completed nearly 64,000 investigations and identified $1.7 billion in savings to the Ohio workers' compensation system.
Among the more than 1,500 cases that were closed during FY 2016, 668 were closed founded, meaning the original allegation was proven. The average savings identified among the 668 cases was more than $84,000. This average savings identified per closed case was the second highest annual average generated by SID. Nearly 200 of these cases were referred for prosecution, or 29.6 percent of the founded cases. SID obtained 119 indictments and 127 convictions.
SID employees are able to generate these results because of their effective and efficient day-to-day investigative techniques and tactics, including collaboration within the law enforcement community. SID employees maintain effective partnerships with our colleagues within local, state and federal investigative bodies. These benchmarking partners recognize that SID embraces technology, such as electronic surveillance equipment and data analysis, including predictive modeling, to proactively detect fraud. During FY 2016, the total savings identified from allegations detected by our intelligence unit and referred to field teams for investigation exceeded $36 million.
However, enforcement is not the only method used by SID to achieve its departmental mission. SID employees promote fraud prevention strategies to internal and external stakeholders by means of articles in periodicals, presentations, and social media, such as this article. These efforts educate, inform and build understanding of BWC's overall mission “to protect Ohio's workers and employers through the prevention, care and management of workplace injuries and illnesses at fair rates.”
Thank you for supporting our agency's mission and efforts. Please keep those tips coming!
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.
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