Columbus – Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) Administrator/CEO Steve Buehrer today announced seven individuals were convicted of or pleaded guilty to charges related to defrauding Ohio’s workers’ compensation system during the month of January. 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.
“Workers’ comp fraud comes in many forms with employers, providers and workers either trying to get by without paying their share or working the system for payments they are not entitled to,” said Buehrer. “Whatever the form, we are committed to pursuing illegal behavior that harms Ohio’s workersâ€™ compensation system.”
Following is a sampling of cases that resulted in a guilty plea or conviction during the month of January.
Nancy Madewell, dba Bagel Cafe Inc. (Kettering, Montgomery County), pleaded guilty to three counts of failure to comply for operating her business without workers’ compensation coverage. Numerous attempts were made by BWC’s Employer Compliance Department to bring Madewell into compliance, but she continued to operate without proper workers’ compensation coverage. On Dec. 2, 2011, Madewell failed to appear for trial and a warrant was issued. On Jan. 4, 2012, she reported to Kettering Municipal Court in response to the warrant that was issued and entered a guilty plea. Madewell was sentenced to 60 days in jail suspended on the condition of not violating her 3 year, unsupervised probation.
Jose Ramirez (Cleveland, Cuyahoga County) was sentenced Jan. 17 to one felony count of workers’ compensation fraud for working while receiving benefits. SID opened an investigation after receiving an allegation that Ramirez was working on cars on his driveway. The investigation found that Ramirez was working for a transmission repair service from while in receiving temporary total disability benefits. Ramirez conducted various tasks, such as, sweeping the floors, cleaning the shop, delivering parts to customers, picking up parts from suppliers, supervising/assisting other mechanics with repairs, and driving business tow trucks to pick up vehicles. Ramirez worked up to four days per week and was paid in cash. Ramirez pleaded guilty in Franklin County Common Pleas Court and will be sentenced March 2.
Mitchell Oakley (Harrod, Allen County) pleaded guilty Jan. 24 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud for filing a false claim. Oakley filed a claim indicating he was injured on his first day of work for an employer, however, SID found that Oakley was actually injured moving boxes at home prior to his employment. Mitchell Oakley was sentenced in Lima Municipal Court to 30 days suspended jail and must repay $150 in court costs.
Victoria Hall (Toledo, Lucas County) was sentenced to a felony count of workers’ compensation fraud on Jan. 19 for working while receiving benefits. SID investigators obtained undercover surveillance video showing her working at a convenience store while receiving temporary total disability benefits. Hall was previously injured at the same gas station and returned to work there after the gas station was under a different name and owner. Hall admitted to wrongdoing during an interview and pleaded guilty Dec. 5, 2011. Hall was sentenced to three years of community control and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $7,754.97 and investigative costs of $1,000. The conditions of her community control are to pay the restitution and maintain employment. If Hall violates her probation, the judge stated that he will send her to jail for a term of 12 months.
Nancy Palmer (Cleveland, Cuyahoga County) was sentenced Jan. 31 to a felony count of workers’ compensation fraud for working while receiving benefits. SID received an allegation that Palmer had been working at a local veterinary hospital. Investigators found she had returned to work as a veterinary assistant while receiving Temporary Total Disability benefits. She was performing duties such as office work, assisting during surgeries, cleaning and taking care of animals. It was also found that Palmer was working as a telephone solicitor for a local charity. Palmer entered a guilty plea and the judge ordered her to pay $7,457.72 in restitution and $1,000 for investigative costs. She was also sentenced to seven months in prison, suspended for eighteen months of community control.
Randall Schornack (Austintown, Mahoning County) was sentenced Jan. 10 to a felony count of workers’ compensation fraud for working while receiving benefits. SID received an anonymous tip on the fraud hotline that Schornack was working as a disc jockey at area bars under the name “DJ Randy Stevens.” SID’s investigation determined that Schornack was working as a DJ for several bars in Mayfield and also for a professional DJ service in Girard while receiving temporary total disability benefits. The SID obtained video of Schornack unloading and carrying speakers and other equipment from his vehicle into different establishments on a weekly basis and performing work services as a DJ. Schornack was ordered to pay $27,202.62 in restitution He was also sentenced to 18 months in prison, suspended for five years of community control.
Source: Ohio BWC