COLUMBUS – The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) netted eight convictions in August in criminal cases related to workers’ compensation fraud.
The eight Ohioans convicted include a Hamilton man who got an 18-month jail sentence for falsifying his wages to increase his disability rate, a Dayton-area man who filed a false injury claim and tried to extort $3,000 from his employer in return for dropping the claim, and a Toledo man who lied to his physician and used an alias to collect injured workers’ benefits.
“These convictions illustrate the nefarious lengths some will undertake to rip off the workers’ compensation system,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Sarah Morrison. “But they also highlight the skill and dedication of our staff and investigators to catch this activity and return BWC funds to their rightful purpose – preventing workplace injuries and caring for those who do get injured.”
As of Aug. 31, BWC’s Special Investigations Department (SID) had secured 69 convictions for the calendar year. August convictions include:
Matt E. Wilder of Hamilton – False Wages
SID initiated an investigation after a BWC compliance officer suspected Wilder may have filed false wage statement forms to increase his weekly injured workers’ benefits. The investigation found Wilder was legitimately injured, but he had filed false wages from another employer, which happened to be his father’s business.
Wilder pleaded guilty Aug. 30 in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court to one count of forgery (uttering), a fifth-degree felony, and one count of workers compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor. Wilder was ordered to serve 12 months in state prison and an additional six months in jail in Butler County. He received credit for 115 days served. He also was ordered to pay BWC $271 in restitution and to serve three years of post-release control.
Thomas Shafer of Miamisburg – False Claim
SID found Shafer filed a false claim and was not injured as reported. SID also found he tried to get his employer to pay $3,000 to him in exchange for dropping the claim.
Shafer pleaded guilty Aug. 29 in Dayton Municipal Court to one count of disorderly conduct, a fourth-degree misdemeanor, and was sentenced to 10 days in jail. He was originally charged with falsification and workers’ compensation fraud.
Michael Scott of Lancaster – Working and Receiving
SID found Scott was working for a window company for four months in 2014 while collecting BWC benefits. A judge in Franklin County Common Pleas Court ordered Scott to pay BWC $1,836 in restitution and sentenced Scott to two years community control, which will terminate with full payment of restitution and court costs.
Martin Halka of Oregon (Lucas County) – Lapsed Coverage
Investigators observed Halka, owner of Bay Area Concrete, and his workers finishing a concrete job in 2014, six years after Halka’s BWC coverage had lapsed. Agents worked with Halka to become compliant with BWC coverage, but Halka failed to submit all the required payroll records. He did, however, pay approximately $8,000 in back premiums.
A judge found Halka guilty of one count of failure to comply, a second-degree misdemeanor, on Aug. 23 in Oregon Municipal Court. He fined Halka $250, plus $87 in court costs, and ordered Halka to serve one year probation and 15 days of house arrest with electronic monitoring.
Kash Marzetti of Columbus – Working and Receiving
SID found Marzetti knowingly and with fraudulent intent worked for his company, Marzetti Swimming Pool Services, Inc., while collecting injured workers’ benefits. Marzetti pleaded guilty to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor, Aug. 22 in Franklin County Common Pleas Court. He had to pay BWC $5,642 in restitution and a $50 court fine as part of his sentence.
David Abitua of Toledo – Falsification
Abitua, 51, pleaded guilty Aug. 18 in Franklin County Common Pleas Court to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a fifth-degree felony. SID found in 2014 that Abitua had lied to his physician, used a false social security number and an alias of Jose L. Vasquez to collect injured workers’ benefits from Nov. 2, 2009 until Oct. 6, 2012. A judge fined Abitua court costs and sentenced him to six months community control, plus one year in jail if he violates the terms of his probation.
Ambrose Adams of Lexington – Working and Receiving
SID found Adams had returned to work as a self-employed home improvement contractor for his business, Double A Home Maintenance and Repair, while concurrently receiving workplace injury benefits from BWC.
Adams pleaded guilty Aug. 16 in Franklin County Common Pleas Court to one misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud. He was sentenced to 60 days in jail, suspended, and one year of probation. BWC recovered $11,965 in restitution prior to his plea.
Christopher James of Massillon – Working and Receiving
SID found James working as a truck driver while receiving BWC benefits. James pleaded guilty to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a fifth-degree felony, on Aug. 4 in the Stark County Court of Common Pleas. He was sentenced to three years of community control. James has already paid $7,705 in restitution to BWC.
To report suspected workers’ compensation fraud, call 1-800-644-6292 or visit bwc.ohio.gov.