Cleveland painter guilty of workers’ comp fraud

reillo-photoA Cleveland-area man caught working while receiving injured workers’ benefits from BWC pleaded guilty Dec. 1 to a misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud.

Angelo Reillo Sr., 32, of Garfield Heights, paid $3,354 in restitution to BWC at the time of his guilty plea in Franklin County Common Pleas Court. A judge fined him $50.

Acting on a tip, agents with BWC’s Special Investigations Department found Reillo working as a painter and supervisor from Oct. 20, 2014, until Dec. 3 that year while receiving living maintenance benefits from BWC. Living maintenance compensation is designed for workers who are actively participating in a BWC-approved vocational rehabilitation plan. The benefits are supposed to end after the injured worker returns to full-time work.

Agents determined Reillo engaged in “ongoing and regular substantially gainful remunerative employment, which was inconsistent with the receipt of LM benefits and contrary to entitlement.”

Coverage in other states: do you have it?

By Kendra DePaul, BWC Other States Coverage Managerkendra

With the New Year approaching, now is the time to begin planning for 2017. We encourage businesses to evaluate their current workers’ compensation coverage to ensure there are no potential coverage gaps.

Each state has different laws and requirements for workers’ compensation coverage. Consider each state where you send employees, and make sure proper coverage is in place.

We have many resources on our website to help employers work through requirements for work outside of Ohio. In addition, we work with a private insurer to offer optional coverage to employers with out-of-state exposures.

Through our Other States Coverage offering, employers can secure coverage nationwide in 46 states. From implementation in March 2016 through November 2016, more than 200 employers have secured coverage. These businesses have eliminated potential coverage gaps and compliance issues, which may arise when working out of state.

If your business is looking to expand outside Ohio, please contact BWC’s Other States Coverage unit to discuss your coverage options. We want you to have the proper coverage upfront, so that you can avoid any coverage issues and focus on having a successful 2017.

Contact the Other States Coverage unit at 614-728-0535 or via email bwcotherstatescoverage@bwc.state.oh.us.

A handy message for the flu season

By Sue Davis (“Safety Sue”), Director, BWC Employee Safety & Health Administration

hands-germs

In 1847, a Hungarian obstetrician by the name of Ignaz P. Semmelweiss showed that hand washing greatly reduced infections in newborns. Dr. Semmelweiss attempted to promote hand washing and cleanliness among his colleagues, who were so offended that they committed him to an insane asylum.

Today, it is a well-known fact that hand washing greatly reduces the spread of disease.

Yet studies show that only 67 percent of people practice any sort of hand hygiene. Researchers believe this number is low because most people have a vague idea that hand washing is important, but many don’t have a grasp on the facts.

Communicable diseases are serious business. At the very least, diseases – like a cold or the flu – impact your day-to-day life in a negative way. More serious diseases can be very dangerous to your health and to others.

Although the flu season lasts from October until May, the peak months are usually between December and March. In addition to the flu, varieties of other communicable diseases spread more easily in winter months.

As an employer, it’s important to do your part in preventing diseases from spreading in your workplace this flu season. In 2016, your employees won’t question your mental health for encouraging hand washing; in fact, December is National Hand Washing Month. So now is the time to remind your employees to wash their hands often, keep their workspaces clean and eat healthy. And if they are ill, encourage them to stay home.

Here are a few other facts to share with your employees:

  • Eighty percent of communicable diseases are transferred by touch.
  • Touch refers primarily to the touching of food, or the touching of one’s own mouth, eyes, and nose. It is not simply person-to-person contact.
  • Touching the face with contaminated hands spreads illnesses such as pneumonia, the common cold and the flu.
  • Hand washing can reduce the risk of respiratory infections by 16 percent.
  • More than 50 percent of healthy persons have Staphylococcus aureus (bacteria causing staph infections) living in or on their nasal passages, throats, hair or skin.
  • Less than 75 percent of women and less than 50 percent of men wash their hands after going to the bathroom.
  • The recommended washing time is 15 seconds. The ideal washing time is 30 seconds.
  • Only 20 percent of people dry their hands after washing. Damp hands are 1,000 times more likely to spread bacteria than dry hands.
  • Hand washing and hand hygiene initiatives greatly reduce the number of absences, sick leaves and lost productivity.

For more information:
http://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/
https://www.b4brands.com/blog/facts-hand-washing-hygiene/

Fraud conviction stains carpet cleaner’s record

A Florida man who had been collecting injured workers’ benefits from Ohio since 2011 pleaded guilty to workers’ compensation fraud Monday after investigators with the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation found him working as a carpet cleaner in Florida.

Jarrod B. Lewis, 40, of Palm Bay, Florida, must pay $5,300 in restitution to BWC and serve five years probation in lieu of a 12-month prison sentence for committing the fifth-degree felony, a Franklin County Common Pleas Court judge ruled Nov. 28.

Lewis, formerly of Chillicothe, Ohio, was working as a youth specialist for the Ohio Department of Youth Services when he was injured on the job in 2011. BWC’s Special Investigations Department started looking at Lewis in October 2013 after getting an anonymous tip that he was living and working in Florida. Agents determined Lewis returned to full-time work in April 2013 but intentionally withheld this information from BWC to receive benefits for which he was not entitled.

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

Auto mechanic owes BWC $132,000 for workers’ comp fraud

Former construction worker ran auto repair shop out of his home

perezA Southern Ohio man who collected injured workers’ benefits for four years while running an automobile repair shop out of his residence must pay $132,239 in restitution to the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) and serve five years probation.

Manuel Perez, 59, of West Portsmouth in Scioto County, pleaded guilty Monday, Nov. 21, in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas to misdemeanor counts of workers’ compensation fraud and theft. He paid $10,000 toward his restitution to BWC at his sentencing. He also was sentenced to six months in jail, which was suspended so long as he complies with the terms of his probation.

“This case took four long years to investigate and prosecute, and I’m proud our investigators pushed it forward,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Sarah Morrison. “Mr. Perez’s restitution will go where those funds rightfully belong – caring for injured workers and creating safer workplaces across this state.”

BWC’s Special Investigations Department (SID) got a tip in November 2012 that Perez was working for his own business, M A Perez Enterprises, as a mechanic while filing an application for permanent total disability benefits from BWC. The source reported that Perez was able to crawl underneath vehicles, push and pull equipment and use wrenches to repair vehicles.

Investigators found Perez had continued to operate his mechanic’s business during a period in which he also received temporary total benefits, September 2007 to November 2011. Agents obtained bank records that provided customer names and payments and receipts from an auto parts store totaling $43,000. The customers were interviewed and identified Perez as the owner/operator of the business.

Perez’s case took years to resolve as it made its way through BWC, the Ohio Industrial Commission (IC) and the court system.

Perez was injured in December 2002 while working for a construction company and was later granted injured workers’ benefits. Roughly four months after SID began its investigation in 2012, an IC hearing officer determined Perez was overpaid and had committed fraud because he operated his automobile repair business without telling BWC. Perez denied those findings and unsuccessfully appealed his case all the way to the Ohio Supreme Court.

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

Driving while drowsy a challenge for truckers

BWC ergonomist addresses Kentucky Trucking Association Nov. 15

By Delia Treaster, PhD, CPE, BWC Ergonomic Consultant

Drowsy driving kills.

In 2013, it caused 72,000 crashes on our nation’s highways, killing at least 800 drivers and passengers and injuring another 44,000, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Some feel the true number of fatalities is actually closer to 6,000 deaths per year.

Drowsy driving is of particular concern to the trucking industry, and that’s why I presented “Shift Work, Circadian Rhythms, and Sleep” to the Ohio Trucking Association in January this year. Some members from the Kentucky Trucking Association were in the audience and invited me to give the same presentation to their association. So with BWC approval, I packed up my PowerPoint and traveled to Louisville on Tuesday, Nov. 15.

The major points I shared with the association can apply to the rest of us, as well. The bottom line is this: Proper and sufficient sleep is critical to the quality of our lives at home and at work. Sleep deprivation impedes our work performance and threatens our health and safety. It can even cause brain damage. (More on that later.)

For truck drivers, it’s especially difficult to get a full and restful night of sleep. Irregular driving hours (often dictated by delivery schedules), lack of sufficient truck stops en route, and hours-of-service rules that don’t align with real world demands are some of the factors that can disrupt circadian rhythms and interfere with sleep. (Circadian rhythms are physical, mental and behavioral changes that follow a roughly 24-hour cycle, responding primarily to light and darkness in an organism’s environment.)

circadian-rhythms

Compounding the problem of sleep loss are electronic devices that emit blue light, such as laptops, tablets and smart phones. The wavelength of blue light has a strong inhibitory effect on the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. Too much blue light at night and the amount of melatonin secreted in the brain drops dramatically. This leads to either poor sleep (with lots of night-time waking) or a delay in the sleep cycle, causing you to fall asleep later. Either way, it results in less sleep.

microsleepIf you’re sufficiently sleep deprived, you will fall asleep, whether it’s the middle of the day or the middle of the night. This is because your brain simply shuts off, no matter the situation. It might be just an instance of “microsleep,”  a very short sleep episode lasting one to 30 seconds. Now imagine what that instance of microsleep can cause when you’re behind the wheel of a 40-ton 18-wheeler, or even a Subaru, for that matter, traveling at 70 mph.

People don’t know when they microsleep – indeed, you can microsleep with your eyes open! And you have no control over it. Just know that no amount of willpower, motivation, or training can overcome the effects of sleep deprivation.

Now, about that brain damage. Long term effects of chronic sleep loss can cause permanent brain damage. It turns out that sleep is essential for some basic brain housekeeping. Neurotoxins are removed during sleep – and only during sleep. Sleep loss means those neurotoxins accumulate in the brain, and that leads to neuron loss. Research has shown that sleep loss causes permanent and irreversible brain damage in mice.

Truck drivers aside, many people who work non-traditional hours (outside the hours of 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.) face serious disruptions to their circadian rhythms, making it hard to get a good night’s sleep. So protect your health, your brain, and stay safe on the roads by getting enough sleep! That’s seven to eight hours for most people every night. Also, be sure to avoid caffeine and electronic devices late at night.

One or two nights of insufficient sleep aren’t too bad – we’ve all been there – but don’t make a habit of it. Just be sure to make up your “sleep debt” as soon as possible.

Delia Treaster joined BWC’s Division of Safety and Hygiene in November 2013. She holds a master’s degree in human factors engineering and a Ph.D. in occupational biomechanics.

Another type of BWC certificate: Showing our appreciation to yet another employer source

By Jeff Baker, Program Administrator, BWC Special Investigations Department

Normally, when our readers think of the words “BWC” and “certificate,” they think of the BWC Certificate of Coverage. This makes sense. The certificate is widely seen and easily recognized. It is the official document employers often frame to display within their business.

Understandably, the law-abiding business owner wants every employee and customer to see that they have secured workers’ compensation coverage from our agency. They know that others see it as proof of the business’s legitimacy and a sign of the owner’s prudence.

That might explain why Vice President of Operations Philip Koster and Human Resources Generalist Lisa Lucas with the Columbus-based business MedCare Ambulance were surprised when we contacted their organization asking to present them with another type of BWC certificate: a Certificate of Appreciation.

Scott Lape, Lisa Lucas, Philip Koster and John Koehl

Scott Lape, Special Agent in Charge of the Southeast Regional Claimant Special Investigations Unit (SIU) within the Special Investigations Department (SID), explained that the certificate acknowledges the business’s referral of a fraud allegation to BWC. The referral, submitted via an online fraud allegation form, had resulted in the successful prosecution of a subject, Lynn D. McCann, II (Knox County) on Sept. 6.

medcare-certificateSigned by SID Director Jim Wernecke, the framed certificate is a simple way to demonstrate our thanks to MedCare Ambulance and others who are our partners in combating fraud.

Significantly, Philip Koster and Lisa Lucas received the Certificate of Appreciation from Scott Lape and Columbus SIU Fraud Analyst John Koehl during International Fraud Awareness Week (IFAW) 2016. Sponsored annually by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, IFAW is dedicated to the prevention, identification and investigation of fraud – wherever it might occur throughout the world.

Just like the talented and dedicated professionals with MedCare Ambulance, you are our eyes and ears in Ohio! Thank you for your help in stamping out fraud, and please, keep those tips coming. To report workers’ comp fraud to BWC, click here or call our fraud hotline at 1-800-644-6292.