BWC’s Special Investigations lands 9 fraud convictions in September

The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) netted nine convictions in September in criminal cases related to workers’ compensation fraud.

Those convicted included workers who found other work while collecting BWC benefits, employers with lapsed coverage who racked up outstanding premiums and fines totaling tens of thousands of dollars, and a dependent of a deceased worker who lied about her college attendance to collect nearly $54,000 in BWC benefits over four years.

“Those who cheat the workers’ compensation system divert resources we need to serve employers and injured workers in the most efficient, cost-effective manner possible,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Sarah Morrison. “Congratulations to our investigators for bringing these cases to justice and returning funds to their rightful purpose – making Ohio workplaces safer and caring for injured workers.”

As of Sept. 30, BWC’s Special Investigations Department (SID) had secured 80 convictions for the calendar year. September convictions include:

William Tootle, Columbus, Ohio (Franklin County) – Falsified Wages
Acting on a tip, investigators found Tootle was submitting false wages in order to receive higher wage benefits than he was actually entitled to receive. Tootle pleaded guilty Sept. 29 in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas to one count of workers compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor. Tootle paid $7,478 in restitution to BWC.

Steve Petrick Jr., Sandusky, Ohio (Erie County) – Lapsed Coverage
Investigators found Petrick, owner of Steve Petrick Roofing, had been in continuous operation with employees without appropriate workers’ compensation insurance coverage. Petrick pleaded guilty Sept. 28 to a fourth-degree felony count of attempted workers’ compensation fraud in the Erie County Court of Common Pleas. Petrick owes outstanding premiums/penalties of approximately $54,000.

Sentencing is set for Nov. 9.

Lisa M. Manley, Brewster, Ohio (Stark County) – Working and Receiving
Manley pleaded guilty Sept. 27 to a first-degree misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud for working while receiving BWC injured worker benefits. She paid BWC $1,078 in restitution prior to her plea. A judge in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas sentenced Graham to a 30-day suspended jail sentence and waived fines and cost.

Ronnie Tolliver, Greenville, Ohio (Darke County) – Working and Receiving
Acting on a tip, investigators found Tolliver operated and actively worked at T&T Total Remodeling while collecting more than $18,000 in temporary total disability benefits between April and November of 2013.

Tolliver pleaded guilty Sept. 22 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a fifth-degree felony. A judge in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas sentenced Tolliver to non-reporting community control for five years and ordered him to pay $18,510 in restitution to BWC. The judge warned Tolliver that if he violates the terms of his community control, he will serve 12 months in prison.

Dion Hopson, Columbus, Ohio (Franklin County) – Working and Receiving
Investigators found Hopson working for two employers in 2014 and 2015 while collecting injured workers’ benefits. Hopson pleaded guilty Sept. 20 in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas to workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor. He was sentenced to 180 days in jail, which was suspended in exchange for five years community control. He also was ordered to pay $5,000 in restitution to BWC and $1,000 in investigative costs.

Kori White, Cleveland, Ohio (Cuyahoga County) – Death Benefits
White pleaded guilty Sept. 19 to a misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud after investigators found she deceived BWC about her student status to collect nearly $54,000 in dependent death benefits over four years.

A judge in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas sentenced White to community control for five years, under the conditions she obtain a job or undergo job training and make regular payments toward her BWC balance. White paid $10,000 toward her restitution to BWC prior to her plea, leaving her with a balance owed of $43,782.

Robert D Matusiak, Brunswick, Ohio (Medina County) – No Coverage, False Application
Matusiak, owner of Rob’s Tree Service, pleaded guilty Sept. 19 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a fourth-degree felony, after investigators found he had been operating his business with employees even though he dropped his BWC policy in 2004.

Investigators also found Matusiak filed falsified applications for BWC coverage during their investigation in an attempt to cover up his history and avoid paying $22,000 in outstanding premiums. Sentencing in the Medina County Court of Common Pleas is set for Nov. 3.

Cheryl McCleary, Columbus,Ohio (Franklin County) – Obstructing Official Business
Investigators found McCleary working as a home health aide while receiving BWC benefits.

McCleary pleaded guilty Sept. 13 in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas to a reduced charge of attempted obstruction of official business, a first-degree misdemeanor. McCleary was sentenced to one day in jail, time served, and ordered to pay $12,985 in restitution to BWC. McCleary has paid the full amount.

Lynn D. McCann II, Mount Vernon, Ohio (Knox County) – Working and Receiving
McCann pleaded guilty Sept. 6 to a first-degree misdemeanor charge of workers’ compensation fraud after his employer reported him to BWC last year on suspicion of the crime. Investigators found McCann working as a paramedic for five months in 2015 while collecting BWC benefits for an injury he suffered doing a similar job.

McCann repaid more than $14,000 to BWC prior to his sentencing in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas. A judge sentenced him to one day in jail, time served.

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

Workplace safety a win for man and his best friend

By Melissa Vince, BWC Public Relations Manager

BWC Administrator/CEO Sarah Morrison presents a certificate of appreciation to Dr. Joe Geer, one of three veterinarians at the clinic, standing here with a patient, Tug.

Veterinarians and their staffs will agree that taking x-rays of animals can be challenging – they get agitated and can lash out by biting and scratching. Vet techs must also lift and restrain the animals that can weigh hundreds of pounds, and developing film can expose them to radiation and noxious chemicals.

One vet hospital in Reynoldsburg figured out that working with safety experts at BWC could help them access newer technology that reduces dangers to their employees, and also stress on the animals.

vet-ofc-2

Dr. Joe Geer and his staff gave BWC Administrator/CEO Sarah Morrison a close-up look at the new equipment.

The Rosehill Veterinary Hospital has been providing veterinary care for companion animals and some pocket pets since the early 1970s. Dr. Joe Geer and his staff partnered with BWC Safety Consultant Bev Morris to apply for a Safety Intervention Grant to purchase a new digital radiography and x-ray table that allows an immediate display of an image on a computer monitor, eliminating the need to hand develop films in noxious chemicals.

The digital images can be manipulated on the computer, reducing exposure to radiation during retakes. Eliminating retakes also reduces the required lifting and positioning of animals for a second time, which decreases the risk of bites and scratches and minimizes stress on the animals.

Now that’s a win for man and his best friend.

As impressive as the technology was, Tug quickly became the star of the demo.

Check out more on BWC’s Safety Intervention Grant Program here.

Don’t play with fire in your workplace

By Erik Harden, Public Information Officer, BWC Communications Department

nfpw-2016This week is National Fire Prevention Week, the annual awareness campaign promoted by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

The NFPA is focusing this year’s campaign on residential smoke alarm awareness with the theme: Don’t Wait – Check the Date! Replace Smoke Alarms Every 10 Years. Practicing fire prevention is the smart thing to do at home, but it’s also critical in the workplace.

At BWC, we are doing our part to protect Ohio’s workers from the hazards of fire in the workplace through publications, classes and library resources focusing on this important topic.

For example, we have an educational guide on preventing flammable liquid fires and prepared safety talks about fire safety to help lead discussions with your workers.

Want to show your employees a video on fire prevention? Browse the extensive selection our library has to offer. Want more in-depth training? We also have educational courses targeted toward industries with high potential for fire hazards (e.g. welding and brazing).

state-fire-marshalFinally, don’t forget to visit the State Fire Marshal’s site for more information on fire prevention for your home and business. The site has several useful resources, including this Business Fire Safety Checklist.

With National Fire Prevention Week upon us, the State Fire Marshal’s office reminds us that about 115 Ohioans die each year in fires. Sadly, many of these deaths could have been prevented with a few quick and easy steps. This week they are promoting a social media campaign that asks “What can you do?” to help reduce this number. We also encourage you to take a moment to think about one thing you can do to prevent fires and fire deaths.

Sandusky employer refused to maintain workers’ comp coverage, owes $54,000

petrickThe owner of a Sandusky roofing company pleaded guilty to fraud Sept. 28 for failing to maintain appropriate workers’ compensation insurance coverage.

Steve Petrick, Jr., Owner/Operator of Steve Petrick Roofing, caught the attention of BWC’s Special Investigations Department after an anonymous tipster alleged he was operating his business without the required coverage.

BWC’s Employer Compliance Department attempted to assist Petrick with bringing his policy into compliance, but he claimed he had no employees and continued operating his business without coverage.

The case was forwarded to BWC fraud investigators after an injury claim was filed against the policy while the policy was lapsed. The investigation and surveillance proved Petrick Roofing had been in continuous operation with employees. Petrick again failed to come into compliance following an interview with agents.

Petrick pleaded guilty to a felony count of attempted workers’ compensation fraud in the Erie County Court of Common Pleas. Sentencing is set for Nov. 9, 2016.

Petrick owes outstanding premiums/penalties of approximately $54,000.

SID Annual in-service training – An opportunity to recognize our own – Part 3 of 3

By Jeff Baker, Program Administrator, BWC Special Investigations Department

In our constant quest for improvement, all members of the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation Special Investigations Department (SID) annually complete in-service training. On Sept. 14, led by SID Director James Wernecke, we shared investigative successes, acknowledged team results, and presented individual awards.

Preparations: In August, all 126 SID employees had been invited to nominate a peer to receive an individual award. A management committee furnished behavioral characteristics for use by SID employees when submitting written justifications for any peer nomination. These characteristics varied according to the type of award: Innovator; Excellence; and Leadership. In reviewing all nominations, the committee members found that imminently qualified professionals were nominated by their colleagues. Ultimately, the committee selected the six most-worthy SID employees.

Presentations: These talented and dedicated professionals received their awards at the culmination of the Sept. 14 event.

Four special agents with the SID Health Care Provider Team (HCPT) received Innovator awards. They met criteria including: developed trend-setting initiatives, created an original idea or uniquely adapted an existing program, process or concept, which resulted in a long term benefit to the department; developed new work methods that reduced waste or stretched resources; and provided creative suggestions that saved the department time or money.

A special agent with considerable field training officer experience from the southeast regional claimant special investigations unit (SIU) earned the Excellence award. The special agent met four standards including: performing duties or providing services to others that are beyond the professional’s assigned responsibilities; working on special projects within the department; volunteering or contributing to organizations outside the department; and demonstrating an ability and willingness to work positively, respectfully and effectively with people inside or outside of the department.

josh-g-1Josh Grappy, a forensic computer specialist with the SID digital forensics unit (DFU), received the Leadership award from Director Wernecke and SID Assistant Directors Jennifer Cunningham and Dan Fodor. Here are just some of the reasons he was nominated:

“Josh does josh-g-2not sit back and watch the world go by, he is making things happen within our organization. Josh has a high level of perseverance, stick-to-itiveness and drive. He can be counted on to get things done. Josh not only meets the customers’ expectations, he regularly exceeds them.”

Please, join us in thanking and congratulating each of the SID award nominees and recipients. They are the reason we are able to meet our mission: To effectively and proactively prevent losses to the workers’ compensation system and to deter, detect, investigate and prosecute workers’ compensation fraud.

You can read the first article about our Sept. 14 event here, the second article about the event here, and our most recent annual report here.