Columbus, OH – Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) Administrator/CEO Steve Buehrer recently announced 10 individuals were convicted of or pleaded guilty to charges related to defrauding Ohio’s workers’ compensation system during March. 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.
“From attempting to avoid paying premium to working while receiving benefits and seeking prescription drugs, there are many ways in which some of those in contact with the workers’ compensation system endeavor to commit fraud,” said Buehrer. “This is why our special investigations department has specialized teams focused on combating each type of fraud and pursuing charges against the wrongdoers.”
A sampling of cases that resulted in a guilty plea or conviction during March follows.
Rebecca Craig (Harrison County) pleaded guilty March 6 in the Harrison County Court of Common Pleas to a misdemeanor for misusing death benefits. SID received a tip, and an investigation revealed Craig obtained more than $28,000 in her mother’s death benefits. Craig’s mother, Mary Reinagle, a widow, who died in February 2007, received death benefits via an electronic funds transfer account. Craig failed to report her mother’s death and accessed the account 187 times over a four-year period. Craig admitted she did not inform BWC of her mother’s death and continued to make transactions using the money from the account. Craig was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $28,564.64 in regular monthly installments. She was sentenced to 180 days in jail suspended and was placed on probation for five years.
Lloyd Wells (Amelia, Clermont County) was convicted March 2 in the Clermont County Common Pleas for two felony counts of deception to obtain a dangerous drug. SID initiated an investigation of Wells after receiving an allegation from a physician. The physician claimed Wells used multiple doctors to obtain narcotics. Evidence proved he sought treatment from three physicians. He received narcotic prescriptions simultaneously from each doctor. The court agreed to allow Wells to seek drug and alcohol treatment for one year in lieu of conviction. Wells was placed on two years of adult supervision. The court also ordered him to repay $272.87 and to abstain from alcohol or drugs.
Mike Tabbaa dba Lunas Deli & Grill (Fairlawn, Summit County) pleaded guilty March 5 to a felony for passing bad checks to pay his workers’ compensation insurance premiums. The deli owner wrote three checks to BWC to pay his premium. The bank returned each check due to insufficient funds. Agents from BWCâ€™s employer fraud team interviewed Tabbaa, and he subsequently re-paid the full amount of the three dishonored checks. He then entered into a payment plan with the Office of the Attorney General of Ohio for the remaining balance. However, his bank returned his next premium payment due to insufficient funds. Following a second interview, Tabbaa canceled his workers’ compensation coverage as the business was no longer operational. However, he failed to make any effort to repay the amount he still owed. Tabbaa was sentenced to seven months of incarceration suspended for 18 months of community control. He was also ordered to pay $250 in court costs and restitution in the amount of $1,211.10.
Melissa Batsche (Urbana, Champaign County) pleaded guilty March 13 to filing a false claim. SID received an allegation and found that Batsche was not employed by the company she claimed to work for on the date of her alleged injury. During an interview, Batsche told investigators that she actually injured herself when she shut the trunk of her vehicle on her hand. She indicated she told her boyfriend she had a job. Batsch filed the claim because she did not want her boyfriend to know she was unemployed. She was sentenced in the Urbana Municipal Court to 180 days jail time, suspended provided she has no convictions for the next three years. The court also fined her fined $250.
Alfred Bollinger (West Chester, Butler County) pleaded guilty March 29 to a misdemeanor count of tampering with evidence after he was found to be working while receiving benefits. SID’s Intelligence unit identified Bollinger as possibly working and receiving temporary total disability benefits. The investigation found he returned to work as an emergency medical technician for a Cincinnati area company while receiving total disability benefits for a prior workplace injury. Bollinger was ordered in a Franklin County courtroom to pay a $100 fine and court costs.
Douglas Burchett (Barberton, Summit County) pleaded guilty March 28 to a misdemeanor count of working while receiving benefits. SID began investigating after receiving an internal tip and obtained employment records showing Burchett returned to work as a truck driver while on temporary total disability. Further records revealed Burchett stopped for several roadside commercial vehicle inspections in various states while driving a semi-truck. In an interview with investigators, he was not truthful about his work activity. Later, when investigators showed him the employment records and the commercial vehicle inspection reports, Burchett admitted he had returned to work. He also acknowledged he had concealed his employment. He was ordered in a Franklin County courtroom to pay restitution in the amount of $4,756.27, a $250 fine and court costs. The court also sentenced him to 120 days jail suspended, and 180 days of probation.
Source: Ohio BWC