Church secretary convicted of workers’ comp fraud

A Michigan woman has been sentenced to five years community control and ordered to pay the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation $8,600 in restitution after pleading guilty in April to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud.

Mischelle Bensch, 58, of Weston, Michigan, must make minimum monthly payments of $200 to BWC until she pays off the $8,617 she received in injured worker’s benefits while working as a church secretary in Michigan, a judge ruled June 23 in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas. The judge also fined Bensch $500 and court costs and told her she would serve a year in prison if she violates the terms of her community control.

Voc rehab provider sentenced on workers’ comp fraud

Business owner exaggerated claims, filed phony expenses

A northeast Ohio woman who runs a vocational rehabilitation services business must pay the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation nearly $56,000 as part of her sentence for committing workers’ compensation fraud. Kristina L. Russell, 36, of North Canton, also must serve five years of community control in lieu of a nine-month prison sentence, a judge ruled June 24 in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas. She must pay BWC $20,869.47 in restitution and $35,000 for the cost of the investigation.

“This case illustrates that we won’t tolerate fraudulent activity of any kind, not from workers, employers or health care providers,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Sarah Morrison. “A workers’ compensation system that is robust, efficient and offered at fair rates depends on honesty and integrity on everyone’s part.”

Russell owns and operates two Stark County companies, Intensity Rehab LTD of Hartville, Ohio, and Emerald Empowerment Solutions of Uniontown, Ohio. The companies provide vocational rehabilitation and job placement services to injured workers. BWC’s Special Investigations Department started looking at Russell after BWC staffers noticed she consistently billed the maximum mileage (130 miles) and time allowed per claim that she submitted to BWC’s Vocational Rehabilitation Program.

Investigators found Russell also billed BWC for mileage, travel time and wait time she either did not incur or incurred on non-BWC clients. She also submitted false bills and treatment notes for her services.

When confronted, Russell admitted to BWC’s findings. She pleaded guilty May 1 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a fifth-degree felony.

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.