Ohio BWC Investigations Result In Eight Workers' Comp Fraud Convictions



Columbus, OH (WorkersCompensation.com) - Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) Administrator/CEO Steve Buehrer today announced eight individuals were convicted of or pleaded guilty to charges related to defrauding Ohio's workers' compensation system during June. The court actions are the result of investigations conducted by BWC's special investigations department (SID). The department works to deter, detect, investigate and prosecute workers' compensation fraud.

"Working while receiving disability benefits and filing false claims direct employer premium dollars away from their intended purpose," said Buehrer. "Caring for those who truly are injured and not ready to return to work is the only suitable use of employer dollars, and the reason our investigators work to track down and put an end to fraud."

A sampling of cases that resulted in a guilty plea or conviction during June follows.

Kelly Hart (Diamond, Portage County) pleaded guilty June 12 to two counts of theft for working while receiving benefits. An allegation indicated Hart was working while receiving temporary total disability benefits. Investigators found Hart returned to employment as a car detailer for Just the Details LLC while receiving benefits. The business owner and Hart himself confirmed his employment. Hart was sentenced to 18 months prison, suspended for five years of Community Control. He was ordered to pay $4,861.91 in restitution and $500 in investigative costs as a condition of his community control.

Ronald J. Richards (Weirton, West Virginia) pleaded guilty June 12 to one count of theft for working while receiving benefits. Richards was awarded temporary total and living maintenance benefits after he was injured as a truck driver for Riley Petroleum Products LLC in Toronto (Jefferson County). Working on a tip, investigators found he was employed as a truck driver for Bee Mack Trucking in Ambridge, Pennsylvania, while receiving these benefits. Richards was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $5,153.05 and sentenced to 180 days incarceration suspended for 36 months of community control. The judge also ordered him to maintain viable employment and will serve an immediate 30 day sentence if he misses a single restitution payment.

Robert T. Howland (Millersburg, Holmes County) pleaded guilty June 12 to one count of theft for working while receiving benefits. SID received an allegation from a BWC claims service specialist that Howland may be working for the Robinson Country Inn/Hotel in Millersburg while receiving Living Maintenance benefits. These payments are available to an injured worker instead of Temporary Total Disability while he or she is actively involved in an approved rehabilitation program. The claims service specialist submitted the tip after reviewing a paystub submitted by Howland and suspecting he may be receiving wages from the hotel. The investigation confirmed that Howland did work for the hotel performing kitchen duties in conflict with his collection of benefits. Howland was ordered to pay restitution of $5,928.43. He was also sentenced to 90 days of incarceration suspended for 60 months of community control.

Benjamin Lawrence (Covington, Kentucky) pleaded guilty June 4 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud for filing a false claim. Lawrence was allegedly injured on the job and was receiving benefits until a co-worker secretly taped him confessing to faking the injury. The co-worker supplied the employer with the tape, in which Lawrence states he purposely injured himself and knowingly filed a false claim. He also brags that he was able to receive pain pills. Lawrence pleaded guilty to one count of workers' compensation fraud in a Franklin County courtroom and the judge ordered him to pay restitution of $2,057.92 to BWC. He will serve 180 days in jail he does not pay the full amount by October 1, 2012. He paid $500 towards his restitution the day of sentencing.

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