BWC fraud investigators secure 8 convictions in August

Business owners, claimants and a healthcare provider who attempted to cheat the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) are among eight convictions secured by the agency in August.

The cases bring the year’s total convictions for BWC’s special investigations department (SID) to 100.

“Employer premiums are set aside to care for Ohio’s injured workers,” said SID Director Jim Wernecke. “We’re holding employers, medical providers and injured workers who cheat the system accountable to protect those dollars for Ohioans who need assistance until they can return to work.”

Among those convicted last month:

Natoya Finley, dba Close to Home Child Development Center, of Cleveland, Ohio
Finley and Rebecca Barbee-Whitt, co-owner of the child care center, were operating the center without workers ‘compensation coverage. The pair ignored requests from BWC investigators to reinstate the policy. Finley entered into a payment plan July 24 after she was charged with four counts of failure to comply, all second-degree misdemeanors, in the Cleveland Municipal Court. She then withdrew her not guilty pleas and agreed to the Selective Intervention Program. She is required to report monthly compliance with the established payment plan. Barbee-Whitt has a warrant for her arrest for failure to appear on the charges.

Thomas N. Jung, dba Tom’s Industrial Truck Service, of Lima, Ohio
Jung pleaded guilty Aug. 4 in Lima Municipal Court to three counts of failure to comply, all second-degree misdemeanors. BWC’s Employer Fraud Team found Jung was operating his business, Tom’s Industrial Truck Service, with lapsed workers’ compensation coverage. Jung was previously investigated in 2012 for lapsed coverage and before bringing his policy into compliance. Jung’s sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 2. He will not receive jail time if he brings his policy into good standing prior to sentencing.

Mark J. Cothern of Danville, Ohio
Cothern pleaded guilty Aug. 11 in the Knox County Court of Common Pleas to a fifth-degree felony count of attempted workers’ compensation fraud.  BWC’s investigation, which involved surveillance and multiple undercover operations, found that Cothern had worked at the Scoreboard Drive-in performing various duties while receiving temporary total benefits. Cothern was sentenced to 180 days in jail, which was suspended for three years of community control, obtain and maintain full-time employment and repay restitution in the amount of $9,406.46.

Alfred Bowlson of Toledo, Ohio
Bowlson pleaded guilty Aug. 29 in the Franklin County Common Pleas Court to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud. Bowlson reported wages for employment to the State of Ohio for his work as a maintenance person in various apartment complexes in the Toledo area while receiving BWC disability. He was also receiving vocational rehabilitation and indicated he was discouraged at being unemployed and unable to provide for his family. Bowlson was sentenced to non-reporting community control for five years and ordered to pay restitution of $18,501.46 to the BWC. He will serve 11 months in prison if he violates these terms.

Elton Rista, dba ED & R Dining Services, of Avon Lake, Ohio
Rista, owner and operator of Ed & R Dining Services, pleaded guilty to a second-degree misdemeanor count of failure to comply Aug. 18. BWC investigators found Rista was operating his business without workers’ compensation coverage between June 2011 and August 2015. A Lorain County Court of Common Pleas judge sentenced Rista to 90 days in jail (suspended) and two years of non-reporting community control. He must also pay restitution of $9,478, return to compliance with workers’ compensation laws, and pay court costs.

Shardette Nyarko of Columbus, Ohio
Nyarko pleaded guilty Aug. 1 in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor. BWC received an allegation that Nyarko may have filed false BWC claims. The investigation found Nyarko filed three false claims in order to receive BWC benefits. Nyarko filed the claims stating she was injured at work, when in fact, she was not employed at the time of the alleged injuries. A judge fined her $100, then suspended the fine.

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

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