Columbus, OH – 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 April. 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.
“As demonstrated in the first case, BWC’s Employer Compliance Department makes every attempt to work with employers who fall behind on their workers’ compensation premiums, but sometimes those efforts are simply ignored and result in criminal charges,” said Buehrer. “Other acts of forgery and concealing employment demonstrated in this month’s cases to obtain undeserved injured worker benefits are also violations of the law that cannot be tolerated.”
A sampling of cases that resulted in a guilty plea or conviction during April follows:
Janell Howell (dba Jump Start Child Development Center Inc.) (Youngstown, Mahoning County) was found guilty of two counts of failure to comply for operating without the required workers’ compensation insurance coverage. SID opened an investigation after Howell did not cooperate with repeated attempts by BWC’s Employer Compliance Department to bring Jump Start Child Development Center up-to-date on its policy. Howell completed required payroll reports but failed to establish a payment plan or make payment. She was found guilty in Youngstown Municipal Court and her attorney initially advised she would not be establishing a payment plan as she was losing her Ohio Department of Job and Family Services license to run the center. She stated that another person would take over the business. Investigators advised that the debt would carry over to the new owner under the BWC’s successorship rule and Howell subsequently agreed to make the payment. Howell was ordered to pay $300 per month for the next five years while on probation, and pay court costs and probation fees. If the full amount owed of $18,547.17 is paid during her probation, her probation will be terminated at the time the debt is paid. If Howell fails to make any payment, she will return to court and may serve up to 90 days in jail.
Myron Rose (Cambridge, Guernsey County), pleaded guilty to working while receiving benefits. SID received a fraud allegation in May 2010 after Rose was pictured in an advertisement as a salesman for Fairdale Auto Sales in the Zanesville Times Recorder newspaper. The investigation found Rose knowingly worked for Fairdale Auto Sales during the period he was receiving non-working wage loss compensation. The work activity was verified through payroll documentation from the employer which indicated that Rose started working for Fairdale Auto Sales in March 2010. On April 24, 2012, Myron Rose pled guilty to 1 count of Workers’ Compensation Fraud, a felony of the fifth degree. Rose was sentenced to 365 days incarceration suspended for five (5) years community control; payment of court and probation costs; $7,794.37 in restitution payable to the BWC; and for Rose to maintain viable employment.
Adam Long (Bloomville, Seneca County) pleaded guilty to one count of workers’ compensation fraud for working while receiving benefits. An investigation revealed that Long began working for Keirns Concessions at the same time he was collecting temporary total disability benefits from BWC for an injury that occurred while working for another employer. Investigators found he was performing maintenance on the concession trailers and on the concession companyâ€™s property. He was also found cooking for the company and working with the customers serving food and collecting money. Investigators captured Long on video performing these work duties. The judge ordered Long to pay restitution in the amount of $4,740.36. He was also sentenced to 180 days in jail, suspended and one year of probation. He must serve jail time if he does not pay the full amount back at the end of one year.
William Vargas Jr. (Youngstown, Mahoning County) pleaded guilty to workers’ compensation fraud for altering wage statements in order to receive benefits for periods in which he did not work. SID received an allegation from a claims service specialist who managed Vargas’ workers’ compensation claim. The BWC employee noticed irregularities in paystub information being submitted by Vargas for his employment with Niles Manufacturing and Signs by Tomorrow. The employee specifically noted that the “year-to-date” earnings listed on the paystubs did not change from week to week. SID found that Vargas purposely altered paystubs and wage statements so that he could receive Living Maintenance Wage Loss benefits for periods in which he did not work, and therefore did not incur a wage loss. Investigators also found that Vargas worked for GLI Pool Products during the time period he concurrently received living maintenance benefits. He was not permitted to work while receiving living maintenance benefits. William Vargas pleaded guilty April 26 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail, suspended for two years of community control. As a condition of community control, he is required to repay $6,107.46 in restitution.
Raymond Adams (Fairport Harbor, Lake County) pleaded guilty in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas to one count of workers’ compensation fraud for working while receiving benefits. SID received a cross match of data with Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services indicating Adams was receiving wages from Spat’s Cafe while receiving temporary total compensation for a workplace injury. Through surveillance, employment records and interviews, SID found Adams was employed while receiving these benefits. Adams was ordered to repay $2,613.45 in restitution and $500 investigative costs. He was also sentenced to 90 days (80 days suspended for one year of community control and credited 10 days for time already spent in jail).
Source: Ohio BWC