Columbus – Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) Administrator/CEO Stephen Buehrer today announced 12 individuals were convicted or pleaded guilty to charges related to defrauding Ohio’s workers’ compensation system during the month of March. The court actions are the result of investigations conducted by BWC’s Special Investigations Department (SID), which works to deter, detect, investigate, and prosecute workers’ compensation fraud.
“BWC takes very seriously its responsibility to be careful stewards of the money employers pay for an effective workers’ comp system,” said Buehrer. “As part of our commitment to protecting injured workers and saving employer dollars, BWC will continue to focus on identifying and prosecuting those who are committing fraud by skirting the law and dodging the rules designed to protect Ohio’s businesses and workforce.”
Following is a sampling of cases that resulted in a guilty plea or conviction during the month of March.
Larry Cochrane (Toledo, Lucas County) pleaded guilty to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a felony of the fifth degree. SID opened an investigation into Cochrane after learning he was working for Leidal & Hart Mason Contractors in Livonia, Michigan, while receiving benefits. Payroll records confirmed that Cochrane worked on several Toledo public school buildings as a mason tender while collecting temporary total disability. Cochrane was sentenced to pay BWC restitution of $6,278.20 and investigative costs of $1,000. Cochrane was placed on non-reporting probation for five years and ordered to pay restitution as a condition of probation. If he violates probation, he will serve six months incarceration.
Toni Arnold (Cleveland, Cuyahoga County) pleaded guilty to attempted workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor, and was placed on probation for one year with the condition that she repays investigative costs of $2,721.59. Arnold completed and signed a BWC First Report of Injury (FROI), an application to establish a workers’ compensation claim, indicating she sustained an injury while working at Rally’s. Arnold received medical treatment and narcotic prescriptions as a result of this alleged injury; however, her claim was subsequently disallowed after BWC learned she was not employed by Rally’s at the time. SID interviewed Arnold regarding her claim and after initially denying submitting a false FROI, she later signed a confession.
Randall Rutherford (Reynoldsburg, Franklin County) entered a guilty plea to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a misdemeanor of the first degree, for working while receiving benefits. SID obtained evidence that he was working and being paid by a business which he owned, Rutherford’s Affordable Forklifts, from January to September, 2007. Rutherford withheld from BWC his earnings in order to receive benefits. On March 17 the court sentenced Rutherford to 15 days in jail, suspended for a five year term of non-reporting community control. He was ordered to pay restitution to BWC in the amount of $5,825.77 and investigative costs in the amount of $2,000.
Donald Hockenberry (Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania) pleaded guilty to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a felony of the fourth degree, and one count of forgery, a felony of the fifth degree. Hockenberry had been submitting false paperwork in order to receive Living Maintenance Wage Loss, a benefit awarded to an injured worker who completes a vocational rehabilitation plan, successfully returns to work, and experiences a wage loss upon re-employment. An investigator determined that Hockenberry did not work for the company he indicated and had been submitting falsified paystubs and wage statements in order to receive benefits. SID also found that Hockenberry was later incarcerated at Blair County Prison in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, but continued to submit false employment information indicating he was working to continue receiving benefits. A Franklin County judge set a court date of May 24 for sentencing.
Joseph Archer (Toledo, Lucas County) pleaded guilty to one count of workers’ compensation fraud and one count of forgery, both felonies of the fifth degree, for forging enrollment verifications in order to continue receiving death benefits after turning 18. Archer had been receiving death benefits after his father’s death as a result of an industrial injury in 1988. In general, dependent children are eligible for death benefits until they are 18 years old, or until 25 years old if they are attending an accredited educational institution full time. Archer submitted false paperwork indicating enrollment in several college classes in order to continue receiving payments, although he either failed to attend, or never enrolled at all. A Franklin County judge found Archer guilty and sentenced him to five years community control, a condition of which is to perform 40 hours of community service. The judge also ordered Archer to make restitution payments to BWC in the amount of $62,499.98, including investigative costs. He also informed Archer that if he violates community control, he will serve 12 months incarceration on each count.
Pamela King (Columbus, Franklin County) pleaded guilty to one count of workers compensation fraud, a fifth degree felony, for working while on disability. SID obtained payroll records dating back to King’s original date of injury and determined that King had continued to work a second job as a home health aide, but failed to report this to BWC. King was sentenced to 12 months incarceration, suspended for a five year term of community control, and was ordered to pay $32,965.08 in restitution and $1,000.00 in investigative costs.
Richard McCarthy (Euclid, Cuyahoga County) entered a guilty plea to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a felony of the fifth degree, for receiving death benefits to which he was not entitled. SID received information indicating the death of Richard McCarthy’s mother, Rachel, who had been receiving widow death benefits. An investigation found that after Rachel’s death, McCarthy illegally withdrew the benefits that were being deposited in his late mother’s bank account. After seeing ATM bank photos obtained by SID, he admitted his guilt. McCarthy was sentenced to six months in prison, suspended for a three year period of community control and was ordered to pay $12,796.43 in restitution and $200 in investigative costs.