Fulton County siblings ordered to reimburse BWC $6K+

Pair took late father’s monthly cash benefits

A judge has ordered a Fulton County sister and brother to reimburse $6,657 to the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation for taking their father’s BWC benefits in the immediate months following his death in 2014.

Cecilia Williams, 36, of Fayette, pleaded guilty Dec. 20 in the Fulton County Court of Common Pleas to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud. She was sentenced Feb. 27 to two years of community control and a suspended jail term of seven months. She also must take a theft education course.

Her brother, James Miller, 35, of Wauseon, was sentenced March 17 to a suspended sentence of six months in jail and a $100 fine after pleading guilty to attempted workers compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor. Both have already paid restitution to BWC.

BWC’s Special Investigations Department learned in 2014 that Williams’ and Miller’s father had passed away on March 15 that year, but no one had reported his death or returned his BWC cash benefits to the agency. Agents later discovered that a total of $6,657 had been withdrawn from ATMs between the dates of March 27, 2014, and July 17, 2014.

Williams admitted to agents that she withdrew the funds using her deceased father’s debit card for personal monetary gain and then provided half of the money to her brother.

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

Gamble on work comp fraud comes up lemons

A Toledo woman who managed a gambling storefront that was raided by state agents in 2014 pleaded guilty March 21 to workers’ compensation fraud for working there while collecting injured worker benefits from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC).

Jennifer E. Garner, 57, pleaded guilty to the first-degree misdemeanor in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas. A judge ordered Garner to pay BWC $7,645 in restitution and sentenced her to five years of community control and a suspended jail term of four months. Garner paid $1,000 prior to her guilty plea.

“Trying to cheat BWC is never a safe bet,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Sarah Morrison. “Our Special Investigations Department is dedicated to rooting out fraud and bringing criminals to justice.”

Acting on a tip, BWC investigators found Garner managing and working at the Surf’s Up Cyberlounge in Oregon, Ohio, through most of 2014 while she collected benefits from BWC for a job injury that purportedly left her permanently and totally disabled.

On Dec. 18, 2014, agents with the Attorney General’s Office, Ohio Casino Control Commission and Oregon Police Department executed a search warrant at Surf’s Up and five other similar storefronts in northwest Ohio on suspicion of operating as illegal casinos. Gaming machines were removed from each of the six locations, but no arrests were made. Prosecutors ultimately declined to pursue the case against Surf’s Up.

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

Ottawa County Safety Council members share their OSC17 experience

By Michelle Francisco, BWC Safety Council Program Manager

Two-hundred and forty miles total. Four hours roundtrip. Ottawa County Ohio employers didn’t let that keep them from capitalizing on the nation’s largest regional occupational safety and health conference. Several employers from Ohio’s north shore descended on Columbus a few weeks ago to find valuable information and resources at BWC’s Ohio Safety Conference & Expo 2017 (OSC17).

It’s no surprise that so many of these employers are also members of the Ottawa County Safety Council. That’s because Jessica Kowalski, manager of the safety council, keeps her membership engaged and focused on workplace safety.

Jessica works tirelessly to promote BWC programs and services through social media and more traditional means of communication, and we appreciate her partnering with us.

After OSC17, she surveyed members of the Ottawa County Safety Council to get feedback on their experience at this year’s event. Below are some of their thoughts.

Dave Barth of Bay Point Resort & Marina attended several sessions on the Occupational Health and Safety Administration’s new reporting guidelines and found sessions to enhance his understanding of job assessments and their benefits. In the Expo Marketplace, he met several vendors he intends to contact about future business.

Julia Catlett of Magruder Hospital applauded BWC for providing classes that are educational from a variety of different perspectives, ranging from safety officers to human resources. She appreciates that sessions provide credit toward her certifications and give her useful information to implement in everyday processes.

Michelle Ish, Ottawa County HR Director, attended her 13th safety congress this year. She appreciates seeing other industry professionals and knows many are repeat attendees, adding, “It’s nice to network on such a large scale!”

Evan Viery of Signature Label found OSC17 to be an excellent summarization of where safety has gone in recent years and where it intends to go. He also felt it was a great opportunity to meet people from other companies and to see what fellow Ohio companies are doing to keep an edge.  “Every time I attend I am more pleased with OSC,” he says.

Tim Gerkensmeyer of Martin Industries tries to attend the Ohio Safety Congress & Expo as much as he can. He said he enjoys catching up with people who he doesn’t see often, adding that he met several new people from his own county.

Adam Holmes of The Ashley Group praised the Ohio Workers’ Compensation Medical & Health Symposium. He attended the symposium for the first time, saying it covered topics related to almost every industry, and it promoted open conversation and sharing of ideas among professionals from several different backgrounds. He says, “The chance to hear first-hand from a variety of employer organizations regarding the challenges they face helps me improve as a consultant to my clients. “That in itself is invaluable and reason alone to make the trip again next year!”

No matter the distance to Columbus, employers from all over the state have many reasons to attend the Ohio Safety Congress & Expo. Make your plans to attend in 2018, March 7-9, in Columbus.

Try as he might, tree trimmer can’t cheat BWC and get away with it

Akron man earns second conviction for fraudulent activity

An Akron tree trimmer with a history of cheating the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) owes more than $17,000 in restitution to the state agency following his guilty plea last month in a Summit County courtroom.

Matthew Mueller, 46, of Mueller Tree & Landscape, pleaded guilty Feb. 16 in the Summit County Court of Common Pleas to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a fourth degree felony. The conviction, Mueller’s second on similar charges since 2005, followed a BWC investigation that found Mueller under-reported his payroll to lower his BWC premiums by thousands of dollars.

“It’s unfortunate that one criminal conviction isn’t enough for some people to learn a lesson,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Sarah Morrison. “The funds we recover from Mr. Mueller will go to their proper place — taking care of injured workers and creating safe workplaces across this state.”

A judge sentenced Mueller to 24 months of community control and ordered him to pay $17,366 in restitution to BWC. Mueller also must bring his business into compliance with Ohio workers’ compensation law.

The employer fraud unit of BWC’s Special Investigations Department got a tip in 2012 that Mueller was intentionally under-reporting his payroll. BWC found he was misclassifying employees as subcontractors and advised him how to correctly report his payroll. Three years later, however, BWC found Mueller misclassifying his employees and again under-reporting his payroll, this time by nearly $40,000 for the first half of 2015 alone.

Mueller’s earlier troubles with BWC resulted in a guilty plea in August 2005 to forgery, tampering with records and failure to pay workers’ compensation coverage. He was sentenced to eight months incarceration, suspended, and two years of probation.

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

Take a STAND-Down to prevent falls in Ohio’s workplaces

By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer

Construction, by its nature, is a dangerous industry. With much of the work happening from elevation, fall hazards are a major concern and fall protection is a must to prevent injuries and deaths.

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In 2015, falls accounted for 350 of the 937 construction fatalities in the United States.* The previous year in Ohio, there were 993 falls from elevation, with 324 of these falls happening in construction. Falls don’t need to be from great heights to have serious consequences; even short falls from elevation can cause serious injuries. However, proper training and awareness can help prevent injuries and fatal accidents.

Each year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) looks to raise fall hazard awareness across the country with its National Fall Prevention Stand-Down. This year’s stand-down is happening May 8-12.

At this point, you might be wondering, “What exactly is a stand-down?” A safety stand-down is a voluntary event for employers to speak directly to their workers about workplace safety. Companies can conduct a stand-down event in several ways, including:

  • Short toolbox talks;
  • Distributing handouts;
  • Screening safety videos;
  • Training and demonstrations;
  • Meetings and presentations;
  • Equipment inspections/audits.

We strongly urge Ohio employers – especially those in the construction industry – to have a stand-down to discuss fall hazards and fall protection sometime between May 8 and May 12.

We can help you plan your stand-down activity. Call 1-800-644-6292 for assistance. The BWC Library also offers an extensive collection of audiovisual materials related to fall hazards and fall prevention.

Let’s take a STAND-Down to prevent falls!

For more information

 *Bureau of Labor Statistics 

Provider perspective: Ohio Workers’ Compensation Medical & Health Symposium in photos

We did not think it was possible – the second year was better than the first for the Ohio Workers’ Compensation Medical & Health Symposium. We increased participation with a capacity crowd of more than 400+ health-care providers.

Thank you!

We appreciate everyone who joined us for our two-day event held last week in conjunction with the Ohio Safety Congress & Expo at the Hyatt Columbus. You share our joint passion for the comprehensive care of Ohio’s injured workers.

A special thanks to the symposium’s exceptional speakers, exhibitors and participants as well as our Medical & Health Division for leading this unique, multi-disciplinary event at no cost to participants.

For ongoing learning, Ohio’s providers took advantage of continuing education opportunities designed for chiropractors, nurses, occupational and physical therapists, pharmacists, physicians, psychologists, rehabilitation counselors and case managers.

What was new this year?

In 2017 our annual symposium featured an exhibit area with 13 exhibitors who help care for Ohio’s injured workers. The exhibitors ranged from prosthetic suppliers and health-care associations to inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation facilities. In addition, we added continuing education for occupational and physical therapists, pharmacists and psychologists.

We continue to include state, national and international experts for our symposium sessions detailing best practices in caring for Ohio’s injured workers. And, we are overwhelmed by the positive comments we are receiving from symposium participants.

Now as we look forward to 2018, experience the symposium by reviewing highlights from 2017.

#BWCmhs exhibitors ready to see providers at med & health symposium!

Between sessions exhibitors visited with #BWCmhs providers.

An association exhibitor was available to answer questions about a safe medicine and responsible treatment program for providers’ patients.

Dr. Matthew Levy (center), orthopedic surgeon at Cleveland’s St. Vincent Charity Hospital answers questions after presenting Periarticular Injuries of the Lower Extremity.

Providers waiting in line to ask Dr. Atchison questions after the first session. He is a medical director for the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago who presented on managing pain and return to work early.

mhs providers in line

Dr. Ali Rezai, Director of the Neurological Institute at OSU Wexner Medical Center (center) talking with attendees after his session on Neuromodulation Advances for the Management of Chronic Disease.

Dr. William Marras, Director of OSU Spine Research Institute (left) pictured below with BWC’s Dr. Stephen Woods. Dr. Marras presented study results on the clinical lumbar motion monitor.

Dr. Nicholas U. Ahn, orthopaedic surgeon, University Hospitals of Cleveland, reviewed a recent discography study in the last session. He presented another study that examines workers’ comp patients with nonorganic pain.

Attendees on break between sessions.

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Kevin T. Glennon, vice president of clinical services for One Call Care Management in Jacksonville, Florida. Glennon spoke about the work comp challenges of the aging workforce. Read a detailed blog about his presentation here.

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Dr. Susan K. Blank, co-founder and chief medical officer for The Atlanta Healing Center, an outpatient treatment recovery program. Dr. Blank spoke about addiction and misuse of controlled substances. Read more in our blog Wired for addiction.

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Dr. Richard W. Rosenquist, M.D., chair of the pain management department at the Cleveland Clinic, addressing the transition from acute to chronic pain.

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BWC’s Dr. Brian Wilson, DC, introduces Dr. Robin A. Hunter, DC., who presented on approaches to non-opioid treatment options.

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Phil LeFevre, senior vice president of business development for the Work Loss Data Institute LLC in Austin, Texas greets a seminar participant. He presented on using the Official Disability Guidelines for evidence-based care management.

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Gerald Steiman, M.D., a practicing physician at Steiman Neurology Group in Columbus.He delivered a presentation on concussions.

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Attendees also heard from Dr. Michael Coupland, a registered psychologist who spoke about pain in his presentation, The Psycho Neurobiology of Pain: Up Pain, Down Pain, Good Brain, Bad Brain. Check out the BWC Blog here for a review of his presentation.

See you next year!

Burglar adds workers’ comp fraud to rap sheet

A Cincinnati man serving time in an Indiana prison for burglary got a short break from prison March 9, but only to plead guilty to workers’ compensation fraud in an Ohio courtroom.

John Dillard Lewis, 47, pleaded guilty to the fifth-degree felony in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, where a judge sentenced him to nine months incarceration, to be served concurrent with his Indiana case. Lewis’s 2015 indictment followed an investigation by the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation that found Lewis had been working for a Wendy’s restaurant while collecting $32,532 in BWC benefits from June 17, 2013 to Aug. 12, 2014.

Lewis was injured on the job in 2011 while working in a factory. BWC’s Special Investigations Department learned he was working while receiving BWC benefits from a database cross match with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. He was indicted in Ohio in 2015 but failed to show for court. Investigators later learned he was in the Indiana prison.

Lewis is serving a nearly six-year sentence in the Branchville Correctional Prison in Indiana for a fourth-degree burglary conviction in Ohio County, Indiana. He was sentenced there last year.

In other recent BWC fraud cases:

  • Patrick Fachman of Columbus pleaded guilty Tuesday to a first-degree count of workers’ compensation fraud for filing two false workers’ comp claims against an employer he no longer worked for. A judge sentenced Fachman to one day of jail time, credited him with one day served, and waived fines and court costs.
  • The owner of a Columbus asphalt company pleaded guilty to a first-degree misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud Feb. 27 after investigators found he had falsified a BWC certificate of coverage to secure a job contract. A judge fined Anthony Evans of A1 Asphalt & Co. $100 and ordered him to pay $134 in court fees.
  • Frank Massingill of Burton, Ohio, was found guilty of a second-degree misdemeanor charge of failure to comply with the law on Jan. 23 for not carrying proper BWC coverage for his business. BWC’s employer fraud team agents tried to work with Massingill to bring him into compliance, but he wouldn’t cooperate. A judge sentenced Massingill to one year of probation and ordered him to pay fees owed to BWC. Massingill also must comply with workers’ compensation rules and regulations, obey all laws and not permanently leave the state without the court’s permission.

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