Special Investigations Dept nets 6 convictions in July

The BWC Special Investigations Department netted six convictions in July in criminal cases related to workers’ compensation fraud.

“Workers’ comp fraud is not only illegal, it impacts the entire workers’ comp system designed to protect Ohio workers and employers in the event of a workplace injury,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Sarah Morrison. “Putting an end to fraud safeguards employer premiums that should be going toward helping injured workers return to health and back on the job as soon as possible.”

As of July 31, BWC’s Special Investigations Department had secured 61 convictions for the calendar year. July convictions include:

Mike G. Abro (Cuyahoga County)
Investigators found Abro was operating several Happy’s Pizza franchise locations in Northeast Ohio with multiple BWC policies in which coverage was lapsed.  Abro worked with BWC to bring several policies back into compliance, but failed to become compliant at his East Cleveland location.

Abro pleaded guilty July 6 in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court to one count of failure to comply, a second-degree misdemeanor. He was sentenced to 90 days incarceration, suspended, and ordered to serve one year of non-reporting probation. As a condition of his probation, Abro was ordered to bring the lapsed policy into compliance. He made a $15,000 payment in June, and must enter into a payment plan on his remaining balance of approximately $18,000 in order to become compliant with the law.

Shannon Graham (Lorain County)
Investigators found Graham had returned to employment as a medical records and scheduling coordinator with a retirement community while receiving temporary total disability benefits by a self-insured employer.

Graham pleaded guilty July 26 in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court to one count of falsification, a first-degree misdemeanor. She made an initial restitution payment of $2,500. She was sentenced to a 180 days jail, suspended for one year of community control, and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $3,200.

Diane Kaiser (Franklin County)
Investigators found Kaiser working for an insurance company while also receiving temporary total disability benefits from BWC. Kaiser pleaded guilty July 11 in Franklin County Common Pleas Court to one count of attempted workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor. She was ordered to pay $1,734 in restitution and $500 in investigative costs to BWC.

Donald Rasmussen (Lucas County)
Investigators found Rasmussen was working as a truck driver while receiving temporary total disability payments from BWC. Rasmussen pleaded guilty July 26 in Franklin County Common Pleas Court to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor. The judge sentenced Rasmussen to 60 days in jail, suspended for one year if he has no other convictions. Rasmussen paid $29,720 in restitution to BWC prior to his plea.

De’Ericka Vason (Cuyahoga County)
Investigators found Vason working as a day care worker while collecting temporary total disability payments from BWC. Vason pleaded guilty July 5 in Franklin County Common Pleas Court to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor. Vason was sentenced to 180 days in jail, suspended for three years of community control, and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $2,235 to the BWC.

 Ryan Somnitz (Sherrills Ford, North Carolina)
Acting on an anonymous tip, investigators found Somnitz was not fulfilling the educational requirements he needed to receive dependent death benefits. He was required to be pursuing a full-time educational program while enrolled in an accredited educational institution. Investigators, however, found Somnitz consistently and knowingly remained in part-time student status and withheld from BWC that he was not a full-time student. Somnitz pleaded guilty July 11 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a fifth-degree felony. He is scheduled for sentencing Aug. 24.

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

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