Columbus, OH – Columbus – Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) Administrator/CEO Steve Buehrer recently announced nine individuals were convicted of, or pleaded guilty to, charges related to defrauding Ohio’s workers’ compensation system in February. 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.
“BWC strives to provide high-quality care to injured workers and financial stability for Ohio employers,” said Buehrer. “To achieve these goals, we must take action against any endeavor to abuse the system.”
A sampling of the cases that resulted in a guilty plea or conviction during February follows.
Andrew Fristoe (Friendship, Wisconsin) pleaded guilty Feb. 7 to one felony count of workers’ compensation fraud for inappropriately collecting death benefits. SID received information from a confidential source that Fristoe was erroneously reporting to BWC that he was a full-time college student in order to continue receiving death benefits. Children who lose a parent due to a workplace accident are eligible for dependent death benefits until age 25 if they are enrolled in college and provide proof of full-time enrollment. Investigators obtained records from three colleges and registration patterns showed Fristoe would register for classes, provide the registration documentation to BWC to continue the benefits, and then later drop the classes. On two occasions, Fristoe registered and dropped the classes on the same day, and still only provided the registered class forms to BWC. Fristoe was extradited from a Wisconsin correction facility, where he was currently incarcerated. He pleaded guilty in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas and was sentenced to 10 months in prison to run concurrent with his prison term in Wisconsin. He was also ordered to pay restitution of $14,501.63 and investigative costs of $498.37. Fristoe paid the $15,000 restitution ordered at the plea hearing.
Mark Mefferd (Convoy, Van Wert County) pleaded guilty Feb. 28 to one felony count of workers’ compensation fraud for working while receiving benefits. SID received an allegation from a BWC claims specialist indicating Mefferd may have returned to work for his business, Buckeye Landscaping while receiving disability benefits. Investigators obtained evidence that Mefferd continued to operate his landscaping business spreading fertilizer, mulching, operating a weed eater, trimming trees and bushes, pulling weeds and planting flowers for numerous businesses in the Northwest Ohio area. He was receiving temporary total disability, living maintenance, and non-working living maintenance benefits from BWC during this time. Mefferd entered his guilty plea in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas and will be sentenced April 19.
Jerry Armstrong (Elyria, Lorain County) pleaded guilty Feb. 7 to one felony count of workers’ compensation fraud for working while receiving benefits. SID received a tip from a BWC claims specialist after Armstrong allegedly stated he was working during a medical evaluation. SID conducted interviews with the employer and Armstrong, and reviewed bank records. The investigation found that Armstrong continued working for a cabinet contractor following his injury working as a carpenter for a home remodeling company. Armstrong is scheduled to be sentenced on March 22.
Teron Barnes (Dayton, Montgomery County) pleaded guilty Feb. 25 to one misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud for filing a false claim. Barnes filed a claim alleging he was injured at Winston Heating and Cooling in Dayton during an attempted robbery at the business. SID found that Barnes admitted to a Dayton police detective investigating the robbery that he fabricated the story so he could take time off work. Barnes admitted that his injury was a result of a fight from a road rage incident. The claim was denied. Barnes was sentenced in the Dayton Municipal Court to 90 days in jail suspended and a $100 fine. The judge also placed Barnes on probation for one year and ordered 20 days of electronic home monitoring. He was also ordered to repay BWC investigative costs for $1,111.57 and attend theft counseling.
Bruce VanSchoyck (Lima, Allen County) pleaded guilty Feb. 19 to one misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud for working while receiving benefits. SID initiated an investigation when an allegation was received that VanSchoyck may be working in Lima while collecting temporary total disability benefits. Investigators found VanSchoyck worked for Buckeye Transcor/B&C Logistics hauling campers from Ohio to Tucker, Georgia and Lexington, North Carolina. A Franklin County Common Pleas Court judge ordered restitution of $2,944.84, which was paid in full by VanSchoyck at the plea hearing.
Richard Ketcham (Lima, Allen County) pleaded guilty Feb. 27 to one felony count of workers’ compensation fraud for working while receiving benefits. SID received an allegation from a BWC employee that Ketcham may be running a photography business while receiving disability benefits. Investigators found Ketcham was being paid to take team photos for various local club sports teams in the Lima area. Ketcham appeared in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas and was placed on community control for three years and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $26,716.38. If Ketcham violates the terms of community control, he will serve 7 months in a state prison.
Christopher Galloway (West Portsmouth, Scioto County) pleaded guilty Feb. 22 to one misdemeanor count of workers compensation fraud for working while receiving benefits. SID received a tip and an investigation found Galloway was working as an independent truck driver while receiving temporary total disability benefits. Galloway admitted to his work activity and cooperated with the investigation. He received a suspended sentence of six months in jail and two years of community control. As part of the community control, he must pay $1,812.18 in restitution, in addition to court costs.
Source: Ohio BWC SID