Northeast Ohio business owner convicted of workers comp fraud

Brunswick man owes BWC $22,000, tried to deceive agency

The owner of a tree service company in Medina County who cancelled his policy with the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation in 2004 pleaded guilty to workers’ compensation fraud last week after investigators found he was still operating his business and owed the agency $22,000 in back premiums.

Robert D. Matusiak, owner of Rob’s Tree Service in Brunswick, Ohio, pleaded guilty Sept. 19 in Medina County Court of Common Pleas to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a fourth-degree felony. The plea culminated an investigation that started in 2012 after BWC discovered Matusiak trying to circumvent the law and avoid his debt by applying for a new policy but with deceptive information.

“Ohio’s workers’ compensation system is designed to ensure injured workers get the care and benefits they need while also protecting employers from claims’ costs that could potentially cripple their business,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Sarah Morrison. “When employers try to skirt the law and avoid this responsibility, they put their employees and themselves at risk and place an unfair burden on the entire system.”

Matusiak opened and closed his original BWC policy in 2004, saying he no longer operated his business. BWC started receiving injury claims from his employees in the years that followed, however. Matusiak ignored BWC’s attempts to work with him to bring his policy into compliance. He then applied for new coverage but under a different address and under his wife’s name. Matusiak stated on the application that there were no other policies associated with the current operation, and he left several questions blank that are used to determine if a duplicate policy exists. The case was forwarded to BWC’s Special Investigations Department.

Through audits, interviews and other techniques, investigators determined Rob’s Tree Service had been in continuous operation from at least April 23, 2013 to Sept.30, 2015. After being confronted by agents, Matusiak again applied for BWC coverage but with deceptive information.

With some exceptions, Ohio law requires employers with at least one employee to carry workers’ compensation coverage. Many businesses won’t hire contractors, such as painters or tree-trimming companies, unless the contractors prove they have workers’ compensation coverage.

Matusiak’s sentencing is set for Nov. 3.

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

 

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