Under the table: Summertime fraud

We’re already well into the heat of the summer, a time of year when we all enjoy barbeques, gardening, vacations and freshly cut grass. But on those outdoor chores on the hottest of August days, some of us would rather pay the young person down the street to weed the flowerbeds and clear the gutters.

It’s a pretty simple transaction, really. The neighbor isn’t an “employee” in the official sense, and you hand him the cash when the job is done.

A problem arises, however, if instead of a high school sophomore trimming your trees and bushes, the work is done by an injured worker receiving workers’ compensation benefits.

If that’s the case, there’s a big problem. There are two acts of fraud taking place. The first lies with the worker who is working while receiving compensation benefits. If you’re on comp, you can’t work.

The second would apply to you, the person who hired the injured worker. If you knowingly employ a worker who is simultaneously receiving workers’ compensation benefits, you are also liable and you could also face charges of fraud and conspiracy to conceal wages. This is precisely why attorney Otha Jackson was convicted in federal district court of one felony count of mail fraud and one felony count of conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States. Our investigation proved that Jackson had knowingly hired an injured worker, Renee Jefferson, and conspired to conceal her wages. Jefferson was sentenced to serve 18 months in federal prison. Jackson was sentenced to serve 21 months in federal prison.

BWC’s Special Investigations Department (SID) is constantly on the lookout, especially during the summer months, for fraudulent companies operating in the great outdoors with claimants receiving workers’ comp and trying to hide their earnings by taking cash under the table. SID is able to track official wage reports, and we’re also aware of ways those who commit fraud try to work around them. Our investigators are also out in full force. We know the extended daylight hours that draw injured workers into public view act as a spotlight to shine attention upon their activities. Cameras capture evidence of their crimes.

Don’t let fraud get in the way of a summer that should be about sunshine, family and fun.

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