Investigative unit nets 9 fraud convictions in October

One worker falls off tractor he took to bar, claims work injury

A nurse who stole a dead patient’s electronic benefits card and a Southwest Ohio man who injured himself after using his employer’s tractor to go to a bar are among nine Ohioans convicted of workers’ compensation fraud in October, the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) reported Wednesday.

“As guardians of the State Insurance Fund, we won’t tolerate the theft or misuse of injured workers’ benefits,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Sarah Morrison. “The misappropriation of those funds raises the costs of workers’ compensation coverage for everyone.”

Toledo nurse Damita Frazier pleaded guilty Oct. 4 to petty theft, forgery and workers’ compensation fraud, all fifth-degree felonies, after BWC’s Special Investigations Department (SID)  found she had taken a deceased patient’s BWC benefits card and used it to purchase household items and food. She also gave the card to her son, Shaquille Malone, who used it to purchase food, jewelry, auto parts and gas.

Under a diversion agreement with the Lucas County Court of Common Pleas, Frazier must serve two years probation, provide 50 hours of community service and pay $2,122 in restitution to BWC.

Malone pleaded guilty to a first-degree misdemeanor count of petty theft and agreed to pay $647 in restitution to BWC. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 13.

In Brown County in Southwest Ohio, worker Chris Owen of Georgetown filed a claim for workers’ compensation after slipping and falling from a company tractor. Owen’s employer was suspicious and reported him to BWC. Investigators determined Owen used the tractor after work hours without the owner’s permission to travel to a local bar owned by his sister. The injury occurred when he returned the tractor to his employer.

Owen pleaded no contest in Brown County Municipal Court and was found guilty of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor. A judge sentenced Owen to 180 days in jail, suspended, and one year of probation. He ordered Owen to pay BWC $2,366 in restitution.

As of Oct. 31, SID had landed 91 fraud convictions for the calendar year. Other convictions in October, starting with the most recent, include:

Tsige Kahsai, dba Boss Market, Columbus, Ohio (Franklin County) – Failure to Comply
Kahsai pleaded no contest Oct. 17 and was found guilty of one count of failure to comply, a second-degree misdemeanor, after SID found she was operating her business with at least one employee and no workers’ compensation coverage. During the prosecution process, Kahsai submitted a BWC application for coverage and obtained valid coverage. A municipal court  judge fined her $100.

Anthony Crenshaw, Columbus, Ohio (Franklin County) – Working and Receiving
SID found a database cross match with the Ohio Department of Job & Family Services indicating Crenshaw earned wages while concurrently receiving BWC benefits. Agents found Crenshaw working as a home health aide while receiving temporary total disability benefits.

Crenshaw pleaded guilty Oct. 6 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor. A county common pleas judge ordered Crenshaw to pay $10,000 restitution to BWC. That money was already on deposit with the clerk of courts at the time of sentencing. The defendant was sentenced to two days in jail, with two days of
jail-time credit. Costs and fines were waived.

Ray George, dba Spectrum Painting, Bellefontaine, Ohio (Logan County) – Lapsed Coverage
George pleaded no contest Oct. 6 to one count of failure to comply, a second-degree misdemeanor, for operating his business without workers’ compensation coverage. George was ordered to pay $336 in restitution to BWC and $100 in court costs.

O.W. White, Cincinnati, Ohio (Hamilton County) – False Wages
White pleaded guilty Oct. 5 in Franklin County Common Pleas Court to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a fifth-degree felony. Agents discovered White’s employer closed for business in 2013, but White filed false wage statements for nearly two years after that so he could qualify for more than $27,000 in wage-loss disability benefits.

A judge found White guilty and sentenced him to community control for five years and ordered him to pay restitution of $25,000 to BWC. If White violates the terms of his community control, he must serve 12 months in prison.

Kelly Smith, Piketon, Ohio (Pike County) – False Claim
Smith pleaded guilty Oct. 4 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor, for claiming he had been injured on a job he had actually been fired from one day earlier. Smith received no benefits from the claim.

A judge sentenced Smith to 17 days in jail and ordered him to pay $672 to BWC for its investigation. Smith had 17 days of jail-time credit and had already paid the $672 at the time of sentencing. Smith had previously been prosecuted for filing a false claim in 2010.

Keith Speed, dba Speed’s Electrical Service, Columbus, Ohio (Franklin County) – False Application for Coverage
Investigators found Speed had been operating his business under lapsed status since March 2003, with several injury claims filed during the lapsed period. Agents also found his wife, Anetta Speed, had opened another BWC policy for the business without disclosing the company had a previous policy. This was an attempt to avoid past experience and debt accrued by the business. Keith Speed was convicted Oct. 4 of one count of attempted workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor. A judge sentenced him to one day in jail, with credit for time served.

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

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