Allen County woman sentenced for colluding with claimant who alleged he was permanently and totally disabled

A Spencerville (Lima County) woman has been sentenced for colluding to commit workers’ comp fraud with an acquaintance who was sentenced for fraud last year. Angela Pugin pleaded guilty to a felony count of complicity to commit workers’ compensation fraud on April 18 in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas.

BWC’s Special Investigations Department (SID) began investigating Pugin after receiving an allegation that a claimant, Douglas Roop, may have been working while receiving permanent total disability benefits he was awarded following a workplace injury.  Roop had filed for a settlement and noted that his brother-in-law owned a business and he was interested in working for him.

SID and the Lima Police Department executed a search warrant at D&G Development and Restoration/1-800 BOARD UP in Lima and obtained evidence proving that Roop had returned to work while collecting the benefits.

The investigation proved that Roop had been working for his brother-in-law, Darrell Pugin, who owned and operated the company. Angela Pugin, Darrell’s wife, also worked at D&G Development and 1-800-BOARD UP as the office manager. Evidence from the search warrant showed that she was paying Roop cash for work done at D&G while Roop was receiving benefits from the BWC.

Pugin paid $5,000 for investigative costs prior to her sentencing. She was also ordered to pay court costs.

Douglas Roop was sentenced on June 1, 2015 and ordered to pay restitution to BWC totaling more than $20,000. Read more about his case here.

Mansfield man ordered to repay nearly $1,700 in workers’ comp benefits

Bulakovski photoA Mansfield man has been ordered to repay the BWC nearly $1,700 in injured workers’ benefits he received while working concurrently in the insurance industry. James Bulakovski, 40, was sentenced April 27 in Franklin County Court of Common Pleas.

Acting on a tip, the BWC’s Northeast Regional Special Investigations Unit (SIU) found Bulakovski working as an independent insurance agent for a life insurance company while recovering from a finger laceration and receiving BWC benefits from April 28, 2014 through Aug. 1 that same year.

Bulakovski pleaded guilty to workers’ compensation fraud, a misdemeanor of the first degree. A judge ordered him to pay $1,674 in restitution to the BWC and sentenced him to 180 days in jail, suspended for one year of community control.

Columbus woman will repay $12,000 in ill-gotten workers’ comp benefits

A Columbus (Franklin County) woman has been ordered to repay more than $12,000 to BWC after investigators found she was working while receiving workers’ comp benefits. Susan Meaney was sentenced in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas on April 15.

SID’s Intelligence Unit found during a database cross-match with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Service that Meaney earned wages from The Kroger Company during the period she also collected temporary total disability benefits from BWC.

SID collected employment records from The Kroger Company that confirmed Meaney worked and receive wages during the same time period she was supposed to be recovering from a workplace injury and was restricted from working. Further, the evidence obtained during the course of the investigation revealed Meaney intentionally misrepresented and withheld her employment in order to continue receiving the benefits.

Susan Meaney pleaded guilty to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud and was sentenced to ten months of incarceration, suspended for three years of community control.  She was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $12,718.74.

Management commitment key to safety culture

By Rich Gaul, BWC Safety Technical Adviser

Leadership is the key to creating the organizational change necessary to achieve a world-class safety culture. What is safety culture?  Culture is like the wind: you can’t really see it, but you see the effects it has on everything around it.  Although you may not be able to see the culture, its presence is very palpable and it influences behaviors and attitudes throughout each workplace.  Top management’s commitment, support and attitude about safety will determine what type of safety culture exists in your workplace.

workplace safety training picA recent study by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) analyzed safety processes and management factors in organizations with high, low, and exceptionally low incidence rates and found significant correlations between safety results and the core management competencies of the organization.  The study concluded that “Management commitment to safety is the major controlling influence in obtaining success.”

According to safety expert, the late Dr. Dan Petersen, “Leadership is crucial to safety results, as leadership forms the culture that determines what will and will not work in the organization’s safety efforts.”  If leadership is the key to success or failure – top management will either lead the safety culture change or they will be the barrier that prevents it.

It is not enough to simply change objectives, create superficial gimmicks or artificial excitement around safety.  A world-class safety culture can only be a reality when safety is fully integrated into the executive mission and the line management organization. Enhancing overall safety in the most efficient manner requires the adoption of a systems approach to safety management.

A systems approach to safety management is the application of engineering and management principles, criteria, and techniques to achieve an acceptable level of safety throughout all phases of a system.  It involves a detailed evaluation of and changes to the operational systems, structures and processes that drive organizational performance.  This process includes goal setting, planning, documentation, and regular evaluation of performance to ensure that goals are being met.  Systems safety necessitates a cultural change in an organization so that “safe operations” is the objective behind every action and decision by both those who develop and oversee procedures and those who carry them out.

Systems safety does not involve imposing an additional layer of oversight or regulations on the organization.  Rather, it is an organizational shift that is seamlessly integrated into the routine day-to-day operations.  Systems safety takes a proactive approach to safety management that goes beyond the prescriptive audits and checklist-based inspections to develop procedures and indicators that anticipate safety risk.  Safety responsibilities are spread throughout all levels and segments of the organization.  This increase in the number of people engaged in safety activities makes it less likely that a hazard will go undetected and possibly lead to an accident.  System safety recognizes that human and organizational errors can never be entirely eliminated and seeks to reduce them by developing a safety-oriented culture.

For additional information or assistance with your safety management system, please check out our web site at http://www.bwc.ohio.gov/ and go to the safety services section.

Blog sources:

  • The impact of management’s commitment on Employee Behavior: A field study – American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE)
  • Safety Management: A call for (R)evolution by Larry Hanson – Professional Safety: Journal of the American Society of Safety Engineers
  • Aviation safety management systems as a template for aligning with business strategy in other industries. By AJ Bayuk, Creative Ventures International LLC., 400 South 2nd Street, Suite 402_B, Philadelphia, PA 19147
  • Shaping a Safety Culture by Andrew D. ShamRao, Ph.D.
  • Integrating Safety Into TQM by Dan Petersen

Columbus man guilty of fraud, ordered to repay $5,000

Keith Mitchell of Columbus (Franklin County) was sentenced in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas this week following a BWC investigation that found he worked while receiving workers’ comp benefits.

BWC’s Special Investigations Department received an allegation that Mitchell was working for a packaging company. The investigation confirmed Mitchell was employed with Adecco and worked at Victory Packaging during periods in which he received BWC disability benefits. Evidence obtained during the investigation revealed that Mitchell intentionally misrepresented and withheld his employment in order to continue collecting the benefits.

Mitchell pleaded guilty April 12 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a misdemeanor of the first degree.  He was sentenced to 180 days in jail, suspended for two years of community control.  He was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $5,147.37.

BWC investigations result in four workers’ comp fraud convictions in March

Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) Administrator/CEO Steve Buehrer announced today that four individuals were convicted of, or pleaded guilty to, charges related to defrauding Ohio’s workers’ compensation system in March 2016. These court actions are the result of investigations conducted by BWC’s Special Investigations Department (SID).

“I’m pleased these claimants are now on the hook for repayment and will not continue receiving undeserved compensation,” said Buehrer. “We encourage Ohioans to contact us when they suspect fraud. Our agents look into every allegation as part of their ongoing work to put an end to fraud and deter future scams against Ohio’s injured workers and businesses.”

The following are a sampling of cases that resulted in guilty pleas or convictions during March.

Kevin Gruver (Elyria, Lorain County) pleaded guilty to a first-degree misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas March 16 for working while receiving benefits. SID began investigating Gruver after receiving an allegation indicating he had returned to work with Adecco while collecting benefits for a workplace injury. Investigators found that Gruver did return to work with Adecco and worked as a temporary employee for multiple companies, including Leggett & Platt, Wal-Mart, Pontoon First Energy Fieldglass, and 3M. This employment activity was inconsistent with Gruver’s receipt of temporary total disability benefits. Gruver was sentenced to 180 days in jail, suspended for two years of community control under the conditions that he maintain employment and pay restitution in the amount of $6,959.65.

Charles Bentley (Mentor, Lake County) pleaded guilty plea to one misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas on March 10 for working while receiving benefits. SID began investigating after receiving an anonymous allegation stating Bentley had been working “under the table” for a landscaping company for three years. Bentley should not have been working at all as he was receiving workers’ compensation benefits for a workplace injury. The investigation confirmed that Bentley returned to employment during the winter season as a snowplow truck driver while receiving temporary total disability benefits.  Bentley had already paid the entire restitution in the amount of $22,125.60 to BWC.  He was sentenced to 90 days in jail, suspended for 90 days of community control.

Amato Zaccone Jr. (Hubbard, Trumbull County) pleaded guilty to a first-degree misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas March 10 for working while receiving benefits. SID began investigating Zaccone after a wage cross-match with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services indicated he was working during the same time period he was receiving BWC benefits for a workplace injury. Investigators conducted field interviews and obtained financial records that confirmed Zaccone was working as a cook for McMenamy’s, LLC while receiving Temporary Total Disability. Zaccone was sentenced to 90 days in jail, suspended for one year of community control on the condition that he pay restitution in the amount of $1,045.20.

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

Check out our latest cases at ohiobwcblog.wordpress.com and view BWC’s workers’ comp fraud awareness video on YouTube.

 

Don’t overlook this important part of risk management

Rich Gaul, BWC Safety Technical Adviser

At BWC, we are committed to assisting businesses in fostering a safe and healthful workplace.  As an employer, you recognize that keeping your most valuable asset – your workforce – safe and healthy is the cornerstone of a successful business.  That’s why back in 2010, BWC modified its drug-free workplace program by integrating it into safety and health management strategies that create a more holistic approach to managing risk in your business.  BWC’s Drug-Free Safety Program (DFSP) gives you the tools you need to make your workplace safer by reducing the chances of a work-related injury.

It’s a proven fact that safe workplaces result in fewer accidents, lower workers’ compensation costs, and greater productivity and product quality.  Managing the risks associated with alcohol and other drug use is an important part of total risk management, and BWC can help.  By enrolling in BWC’s Drug-Free Safety Program, not only will we assist you with creating and implementing a drug-free program that is right for your business, but you may also qualify for significant rebates on your workers’ compensation insurance premiums.

How does the DFSP work?

The DFSP has two program levels.  Eligible employers may elect to join either level of the program.

Basic Level

Participating employers receive a 4-percent rebate by meeting all of the following program requirements.

  • Completion of an online safety self-assessment;
  • Online accident analysis reports;
  • Accident analysis training for supervisors;
  • Employee education;
  • Supervisor skill-building training;
  • Alcohol and other drug testing;
  • Written drug-free policy;
  • A list of community resources for employees requesting assistance with substance issues.

Advanced Level

Participating employers receive a 7-percent rebate by meeting all the basic level requirements as well as these additional advanced level requirements.

  • Conduct annual 15-percent random testing
  • Complete an online safety action plan to improve safety deficiencies identified during the safety self-assessment described above in the basic level.
  • Pre-establish a relationship with a substance abuse professional and refer employees who test positive for a substance abuse assessment. The employer must pay the cost of this initial assessment.
  • Offer a second chance employment plan to employees who test positive and are willing to complete a treatment plan.

How to apply

To access detailed program information or to apply for the DFSP, visit www.bwc.ohio.gov, select Ohio Employers, and click on the Drug-Free Safety Program link under the Programs tab.

  • Private employers may enroll for the program year that begins July 1 by submitting an online application to BWC by the last business day in May.
  • Public employers may enroll for the program year that begins January 1 by submitting an online application to BWC by the last business day in November.