Columbus, OH – Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) Administrator/CEO Steve Buehrer recently announced that five individuals were convicted of, or pleaded guilty to, charges related to defrauding Ohio’s workers’ compensation system in January 2015. These court actions are the result of investigations conducted by BWC’s Special Investigations Department (SID).
“Fraud investigations are an essential part of our work to ensure Ohio workers are insured for workplace injuries, and employer dollars aren’t going toward fraudulent claims,” Buehrer said. “In order to protect Ohio workers and employers, our investigators follow up on every tip and refer cases for review by prosecutors to determine whether criminal charges are warranted.”
The following is a sampling of cases that resulted in guilty pleas or convictions during January:
Terri Garcia (Kent, Portage County) pleaded guilty and was sentenced Jan. 27 in Franklin County Court of Common Pleas on one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a fifth-degree felony. BWC began investigating after receiving an anonymous tip through BWC’s fraud hotline that Garcia was working while receiving workers’ compensation benefits. Investigators conducted interviews and recorded surveillance footage, which shows Garcia walking to a doctor’s appointment and then later walking to a client’s home. She worked as a home health aide while receiving temporary total disability benefits in 2013 and 2014. Injured workers are not permitted to work while receiving this type of benefit. Garcia was ordered to repay $8,321.23 in restitution to BWC and sentenced to six months in prison with all days suspended, and placed on 18 months of probation.
Chalmers Barnes III (Belmont, Belmont County) pleaded guilty and was sentenced Jan. 5 in Franklin County Court of Common Pleas on one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor. BWC fraud investigators received an allegation from a BWC claims service specialist that Barnes submitted falsified job search forms to receive non-working wage loss benefits. In order to receive this type of benefit, claimants must submit job search forms to show that they are searching for a job. Investigators checked job searches Barnes submitted to BWC, and found that Barnes was not performing in-person job searches or completing job applications at those businesses. As a result, BWC paid benefits to Barnes that he was not entitled to receive. Barnes was sentenced to one day in jail and given credit for time served. He also paid $749.47 in restitution prior to his sentencing.
Leonard Braynen (Moundsville, West Virginia) pleaded guilty and was sentenced Jan. 14 in Franklin County Court of Common Pleas on one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor. BWC received information indicating that Braynen was working as a delivery driver while receiving various benefits from BWC. Investigators found that Braynen worked while receiving multiple types of benefits from BWC. Braynen was ordered to pay $9,000 in restitution to BWC and was sentenced to 180 days in jail, and given credit for the time, which was already served.
Lois Przylepa (Findlay, Hancock County) pleaded no contest and was sentenced Jan. 20 in Findlay Municipal Court on one count of falsification, a first-degree misdemeanor. BWC received an allegation that Przylepa filed a false claim. Investigators found that Przylepa was terminated from employment at a mall business. After being fired, Przylepa went to the hospital and claimed she slipped and hurt herself at work. Witnesses denied that she fell and confirmed that she was never injured at work. Przylepa was ordered to pay a $250 fine plus court costs, and was sentenced to 30 days in jail with 25 days suspended. Przylepa must also perform 50 hours of community service.
Source: Ohio BWC