BWC secures 13 fraud convictions in January

Work comp cheats owe more than $66K

BWC is owed more than $66,000 in restitution from claimants and employers who were convicted and sentenced in January on fraud-related charges.

That total will likely grow, as three of the 13 claimants convicted last month still await sentencing.

“Workers’ comp cheats raise the costs for everyone else in the system,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Sarah Morrison. “The money we recoup from these cases will go where it rightfully belongs — caring for those who are legitimately injured on the job and creating safe workplaces across Ohio.”

Those convicted include:

Ruth Shelhart-Holleran of Hilliard, Ohio — Working and Receiving
BWC’s Special Investigations Department found Shelhart-Holleran was working while receiving BWC benefits after finding her name in a cross match with the Ohio Department of Job & Family Services. Shelhart-Holleran pleaded guilty Jan. 30 in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor. A judge set restitution at $8,366.

Edgardo Ocasio of Cleveland, Ohio — Working and Receiving
Acting on a tip, investigators found Ocasio working as a mechanic while receiving BWC benefits. Ocasio pleaded guilty Jan. 30 in Franklin County to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor. He was ordered to pay $2,522 in restitution. Additionally, he was sentenced to a three-month suspended jail sentence and put on community control for three years.

Robert Beasley of Cleveland, Ohio — Working and Receiving
Beasley must pay $7,065 in restitution after pleading guilty Jan. 26 to a misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud. A Franklin County judge also sentenced Beasley to three years of community control after suspending a 180-day jail sentence. Investigators found Beasley working as a cleaner while receiving BWC benefits.

Frederic Dasse of Canal Winchester, Ohio — Working and Receiving
Investigators found Dasse working two jobs while receiving BWC benefits. Dasse pleaded guilty Jan. 25 in Franklin County to one misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud. A judge ordered Dasse to pay $5,472 in restitution to BWC by July 25 or face 180 days in jail.

Brenda Fletcher of Delaware, Ohio — Working and Receiving
Undercover investigators found Fletcher working as a bartender while receiving BWC benefits. Fletcher was found guilty Jan. 18 by a jury in Delaware County on one count each of workers’ compensation fraud and theft, both fourth-degree felonies. Fletcher is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 27.

Roland Samons, dba Shafer Brothers Body Shop, of Ironton, Ohio — Lapsed Coverage
Samons pleaded guilty Jan. 18 in Lawrence County to one count of attempted workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor, after failing to establish a payment plan for unpaid BWC premiums. He was sentenced to a six-month suspended jail sentence and placed on probation for three years. He was ordered to pay $5,687 in restitution.

Jason E. Chamberlin of Kingston, Ohio — Working and Receiving
Chamberlin pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud Jan. 12 in Franklin County. He must pay nearly $5,918 in restitution after investigators found him working as a prison guard while collecting injured workers’ benefits. He also must serve five years probation.

Andrea Menendez, dba Spring Clean Maids, of Warren, Ohio — Lapsed Coverage
Menendez pleaded guilty Jan. 12 in Warren Municipal Court to one count of failure to comply, a second-degree misdemeanor, for failing to pay premiums owed to BWC. She was sentenced to three years probation and ordered to pay court costs and to bring her company into BWC compliance. She paid $1,000 toward her past-due balance of $3,884.

Tony Harn of Columbus, Ohio — Falsified Wages
Investigators started looking at Harn after learning he had filed a suspicious wage earnings statement with BWC, a document needed to calculate his injured workers’ benefits. Harn pleaded guilty Jan. 9 in Franklin County to one count of workers’ compensation fraud and one count of theft, both misdemeanors of the first degree. A judge ordered Harn to pay $12,861 in restitution and sentenced him to 180 days in jail on each count. The judge then suspended the jail sentence and placed Harn on two years of community control.

William Seckler of Andover Village, Ohio — Working and Receiving
Investigators found Seckler working as a delivery driver for an Amish roofing company while receiving BWC benefits. Seckler must pay BWC $14,520 in restitution and $2,530 in investigative costs after pleading guilty to workers’ compensation fraud Jan. 3 in Franklin County. A judge also ordered Seckler to serve 180 days in jail, suspended, and four years of community control for his crime, a first-degree misdemeanor.

BWC research seeks better strategies for workplace injury prevention, injured worker care

We’ve written before about our efforts to collaborate on research into a number of issues that impact the entire workers’ compensation industry. BWC is the sole provider of workers’ compensation insurance coverage in the state, meaning we have a comprehensive set of data that can offer insight into how the industry can reduce workplace injuries and improve care for those who are hurt on the job.

Another study was recently released that examines how best to utilize workers’ comp data to monitor and prevent injuries in the private sector.  Dr. Abe Al-Tarawneh, Superintendent of BWC’s Division of Safety and Hygiene, contributed to the study, along with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

We invite you to review an abstract of the study – Development of Methods for Using Workers’ Compensation Data for Surveillance and Prevention of Occupational Injuries Among State-Insured Private Employers in Ohiohere.

We hope our participation in research projects like this will contribute to the development of solutions that can be used right here in Ohio, and by our counterparts across the country.

Limo driver takes work comp system for a ride, now owes BWC $80,000

robert-willie-jr-booking-photoA former school bus driver caught working as a limousine driver while receiving injured workers’ benefits must pay the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation $80,000 and serve five years probation.

“Thanks to responsible citizens who report fraud, we were able to stop a workers’ comp cheat and return BWC dollars to their rightful purpose — creating safer workplaces across Ohio and helping workers who are legitimately injured on the job,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Sarah Morrison.

Robert Willie, Jr., 57, of Columbus, pleaded guilty Tuesday in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a fifth-degree felony. In addition to restitution and probation, a judge warned Willie that he would serve six months in jail if he violated the terms of his probation.

Willie started collecting BWC benefits in 2010 after getting injured while working as a school bus driver. Acting on an anonymous tip to the BWC Fraud Hotline, BWC’s Special Investigations Department reviewed bank and employment records and found Willie had worked off and on for much of the time between March 2010 and May 2015, all while collecting BWC benefits. Willie worked as a limousine driver and office clerk for a Columbus company.

A photo of Willie can be found here.

To report suspected workers’ compensation fraud, call 1-800-644-6292 or visit bwc.ohio.gov.

Lapsed coverage leads to court convictions for two Ohio employers

A southern Ohio body shop owner must pay the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) nearly $6,000 for not carrying workers’ compensation coverage while running his business.

Ironton resident Roland Samons, owner of the Shafer Brothers Body Shop, pleaded guilty Jan. 18 to one count of attempted workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor. A Lawrence County judge sentenced Samons to six months in jail before suspending the sentence and placing Samons on three years probation. Probation will terminate sooner once Samons pays BWC $5,686 in restitution.

BWC’s Special Investigations Department (SID) determined Samons failed to carry proper coverage from January 2010 through December 2014.

In another recent court case, the owner of a cleaning service company in northeast Ohio must pay BWC nearly $4,000 to bring her BWC policy into compliance after pleading guilty Jan. 12 to a second-degree misdemeanor count of failure to comply.

A Warren Municipal Court judge also sentenced Andrea Menendez, who with her husband owns Spring Clean Maids, to three years probation. At sentencing, Menendez provided documentation showing she had already paid $1,000 toward her BWC debt of $3,884.

To report suspected workers’ compensation fraud, call 1-800-644-6292 or visit bwc.ohio.gov.

Ohio employers receive $942,000 in workplace safety grants

Forty-one Safety Intervention Grants were approved in December. Employers in twenty-eight counties around the state will share more than $942,000 in grants to purchase equipment designed to substantially reduce or eliminate workplace injuries and illnesses.

Counties include:

Allen Auglaize Brown Clark
Clinton Cuyahoga Fairfield Franklin
Greene Guernsey Hamilton Holmes
Jackson Knox Lorain Lucas
Mahoning Montgomery Portage Preble
Richland Sandusky Scioto Seneca
Stark Van Wert Wayne Wood

Click here for a listing of recipients by county, including descriptions of planned equipment purchases.

The Safety Intervention Grant program provides employers with a 3-to-1 matching amount up to a maximum of $40,000. Quarterly data reports and follow-up case studies help BWC determine the effectiveness of employers’ safety interventions and establish best practices for accident and injury prevention.

Learn more about the Safety Intervention Grant Program at bwc.ohio.gov. View stories about previous grant recipients on BWC’s YouTube channel.

Cross match in state agency databases leads to fraud convictions

A routine check on injured worker names through state agency databases led to convictions this week of two Ohio men on workers’ compensation fraud charges.

Investigators with the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) ran the workers’ names by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services and found records indicating they were employed while concurrently receiving temporary total disability benefits from BWC.

dasse-booking-photoFrederic Dasse, 44, of Canal Winchester, pleaded guilty Wednesday in a Franklin County court room to one misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud.

A judge ordered Dasse to pay $5,472 in restitution to BWC by July 25 or face 180 days in jail.

beasley-booking-photoIn a separate and unrelated case, Robert Beasley, 56, of Cleveland, must pay BWC $7,065 in restitution after pleading guilty Thursday to a misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud.

The judge also sentenced Beasley to three years of community control after suspending a 180-day jail sentence.

BWC’s Special Investigations Department discovered Dasse, a security guard when he was injured in 2013, was working two jobs while receiving BWC benefits. They found Beasley working as cleaner for a Cleveland-area company while receiving benefits.

To report suspected workers’ compensation fraud, call 1-800-644-6292 or visit bwc.ohio.gov.

Opioid education: the dangers of addiction and dependence

By Nick Trego, BWC Clinical Operations Manager

Opioid analgesics are potent pain relieving medications that can cause numerous side effects that range from itching to chronic constipation to hormone deficiencies.

The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) considers opioid analgesics to be dangerous drugs with a high potential for abuse and with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence.

Prior to initiating therapy with opioid analgesics, patient education surrounding the risks and benefits of these medications is essential to understanding and developing realistic expectations of treatment outcomes.

Due to the addictive nature of these medications, the Ohio BWC is also taking additional steps to prevent addiction, including collaborating with other organizations to develop fact sheets to help providers, employers and injured workers better understand the potential risks of excessive opioid use.

A few statistics show the importance of understanding the impact opioids are having in Ohio and across the United States:

  • Prescription opioids are associated with more fatal overdoses than any other prescription or illegal drug including cocaine and heroin.1
  • In 2012, health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for opioid pain medication, enough for every adult in the United States to have a bottle of pills.2
  • Unintentional drug overdose continued to be the leading cause of injury-related death in Ohio in 2015, ahead of motor vehicle traffic crashes – a trend which began in 2007.3
  • Unintentional drug overdoses caused the deaths of 3,050 Ohio residents in 2015, the highest number on record, compared to 2,531 in 2014. The number of overdose deaths increased 20.5 percent from 2014 to 2015, which is similar to the increase from 2013 to 2014.4

Increased understanding of the safety and risks associated with the use of opioids will benefit those seeking the best possible medical treatment without facing the consequences of dependence or addiction.

We invite you to review these new educational materials and share them with your colleagues, family and friends.

The fact sheets can be found on BWC’s website:

BWC’s medical director, Dr. Stephen Woods, addressed the importance of balancing short term pain management and the longer term risk of addiction in an earlier blog post

For more information, email Pharmacy.Benefits@bwc.state.oh.us.

 

1 Ohio’s Opiate Epidemic, Mental Health & Recovery Board – Erie and Ottawa Counties, Alcohol and Other Drugs (AOD) Committee

2 CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain – United States, 2016

3, 4  2015 Ohio Drug Overdose Data: General Findings, Governor’s Cabinet Opioid Action Team