Voicemail greeting exposes scheme
Thomas H. Cannell’s friendly voicemail greeting blew his cover, and now the fireplace salesman from northeast Ohio faces potential prison time and a bill for more than $684,000 for defrauding the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) and the Social Security Administration for decades.
The 62-year-old Cannell, a resident of Northfield Village in Summit County, was charged with theft of government funds and wire fraud Wednesday in the United States District Court in Cleveland after BWC discovered him concealing work income since 1993 while collecting $204,761 in permanent total disability benefits from BWC and $479,288 in Supplemental Security Income from Social Security.
“One of our claims specialists returned a phone call from Mr. Cannell in 2015 and heard the voicemail greeting, ‘Hello, you have reached Tom at Your Fireplace Shop,’” said Jim Wernecke, director of BWC’s special investigations department. “We took it from there.”
Wernecke said Cannell concocted a scheme to avoid being paid directly by the Summit County business owner. He said the owner had no knowledge of anything illegal going on and cooperated fully with BWC and Social Security investigators.
Sentencing for Cannell has not yet been scheduled. According to the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio’s office, the court will first review Cannell’s prior criminal record, if any, his role in the offense and other characteristics of the violation. In all federal cases, the sentence will not exceed the statutory maximum. In most cases, it will be less.
To report suspected workers’ compensation fraud, call 1-800-644-6292 or visit bwc.ohio.gov.