BWC calls foul on Cleveland youth basketball coach

Coach convicted of workers’ comp fraud Wednesday

A basketball coach in Cleveland must reimburse the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) more than $4,000 after the agency’s investigators found her working while collecting injured-worker benefits.

Christine Estrict, aka Christina Estrict, pleaded guilty to a first-degree misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud Wednesday in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas. A judge sentenced her to 180 days in jail, then suspended the sentence for five years of probation. He ordered her to pay BWC $4,156 in restitution.

“We received an anonymous tip in 2016 that Ms. Estrict was working as a paid referee while receiving BWC benefits, which is against state law,” said Jim Wernecke, director of BWC’s special investigations department. “Our investigation found her working as a basketball coach in Beachwood City Schools and also as a coach and athletic director for a charter school.”

In other news, a former Ohioan now living in Florida pleaded guilty Wednesday to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud after BWC found him working as a truck driver in 2015 while collecting BWC benefits.

A Franklin County judge ruled Glenn J. Miller III, 44, must serve three years of probation and pay BWC $16,000 in restitution.

Also this week, a Dayton-area business owner who owed BWC more than $190,000 in back premiums this year avoided jail time Monday when a judge fined him $250 for failing to comply with Ohio law requiring him to carry workers’ compensation coverage.

A Kettering Municipal Court judge suspended his 30-day jail sentence for Randall Mount, the owner of Ram Restoration in Centerville, and sentenced Mount to two years non-reporting probation instead. Mount and BWC informed the court that Mount is in a repayment plan with BWC and the agency had reinstated his coverage Aug. 13.

Mount’s business remediates water, fire and mold damage and performs other construction work, according to its website.

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

Have you inspected your forklift lately?

By Cari Gray, BWC Industrial Safety Consultant Specialist

Every day at many work locations, powered industrial trucks (aka forklifts) are sadly being neglected and unloved. Sounds extreme, but it’s true.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard states, “Industrial trucks shall be examined before being placed in service … Such examination shall be made at least daily.” OSHA continues, “where industrial trucks are used on a round-the-clock basis, they shall be examined after each shift.”

So, let’s break down when and what to inspect, and who should do it.

First and foremost – inspections MUST be done.

Inspections need to be done when you put a powered industrial truck (let’s call them forklifts from here on out) in service.

This means inspecting new forklifts and those that have been sitting around unused more than one day. Beyond that, if you use a forklift more than one shift in any given day – you need to inspect it at least after each shift.

OK, so now that’s a little clearer and we know when to inspect – let’s talk about WHO must inspect. Often the forklift operators are the inspectors – and that’s perfectly acceptable. It makes sense for the person who is most impacted to do the inspection. However, sometimes a supervisor or a maintenance employee does the inspection., That’s fine, too. Just make sure the inspector is trained, the inspection’s getting done and it’s getting done right.

Now, let’s cover WHAT we should inspect for. First things first – you need to make sure you are inspecting anything the manufacturer recommends. Yup, you’ve got it – that means you need the manual for the equipment. I know, I know, you have a really old forklift, or maybe you bought it used from an auction … who has the manual? Well, you should. I If you don’t have it, you need to find it – look online, contact the manufacturer or a dealer … but find it. Once you have it, I suggest making a copy and squirrelling away the original so you don’t have to go through this again.

After you use the manufacturer recommendations, you need to consider things that OSHA details out for training. You’ve got it right – OSHA does not give a list of what should be inspected, however it does list mechanical things you need to train your folks on … so it makes sense to inspect for those things. These include:

  • Safety guards.
  • Batteries or fuel systems.
  • Steering systems and wheels.
  • Load backrest extensions.
  • Brakes, horn and lights (if present).

Additionally, you should look at housekeeping – seriously housekeeping on a forklift! Your truck should be kept “clean, free of lint, excess oil and grease.” Now, I’m not expecting the equipment to be clean enough to eat off, but it should not look like a pig sty. You should also include any other safety and operational items that you and your company deem inspection-worthy.

I recommend you create your own checklist to include all these things. You can find dozens of samples online, but don’t just use one without carefully looking at it.  You can update and customize this checklist as needed, it’s yours … so make it look like it!

The OSHA standard also says you need to train your employees on “any vehicle inspection and maintenance that the operator will be required to perform.” Bottom line, if your forklift operators are doing the inspections, they need to know how to do them. A great way to train them is to go out and do the inspection as an exercise during the operator training on a real-life forklift. You can also use this YouTube video that we created (I helped) to aid in the training of forklift inspection.

The last item to keep in mind about forklift inspections is: if you find something unsafe, you DO something about it. OSHA 1910.178(p)(1) says: “If at any time a powered industrial truck is found to be in need of repair, defective, or in any way unsafe, the truck shall be taken out of service until it has been restored to safe operating condition.” Don’t ignore unsafe conditions you discover on a forklift. I know, you need to get the job done, but if you have an incident because your forklift is unsafe, it will take a lot longer to do the job and you may hurt someone. That’s not worth it!

The last thought I will leave you with is, consider the dreaded concern of “pencil whipping.” I know you would never do it – but sometimes the importance of an inspection is forgotten and in our rush – we grab the inspection sheet and check off it’s “all good” without even looking at the equipment. If you are the inspector and you are reading this: DON’T DO THAT – that’s silly. If you administer the inspection program, don’t allow others to take shortcuts either.

You can do things to prevent accidents – do spot checks, ask questions and double check. Make forklift inspections a priority!

Cleveland-area valet attendant convicted of workers’ comp fraud

BWC also reports four fraud convictions in August

A Cleveland-area man collecting disability benefits from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation pleaded guilty to workers’ compensation fraud Monday after investigators found him working as a valet attendant at Southwest General Hospital in Middleburg Heights.

Anthony Caputo, 67, paid BWC $4,021 in restitution prior to his plea in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, where a judge fined him $500 in lieu of a 10-day jail sentence for the first-degree misdemeanor.

“Acting on a tip in 2017, our investigators found Mr. Caputo had worked for no less than four employers while receiving BWC benefits,” said Jim Wernecke, director of BWC’s special investigations department. “In fact, we found he went back to work just a few weeks after his on-the-job injury at a restaurant in August 2016.”

In another fraud case, a Springfield woman pleaded guilty to workers’ compensation fraud Sept. 13 after investigators found her working as a consultant to a South Charleston employer while collecting BWC benefits.

Linda Cline paid BWC $6,759 in restitution prior to pleading guilty to the first-degree misdemeanor in the Franklin County common pleas court. A judge sentenced her to six months of probation.

In other news, BWC secured fraud convictions against three Ohioans and one Texan in August, bringing the calendar year’s total to 54 as of Aug. 31. Those convicted include:

Walter Patterson of Olmsted Twp. – Patterson pleaded guilty Aug. 21 to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud in Franklin County. A judge ordered Patterson to reimburse BWC $45,906 and serve five years of community control.

Jason Smith of Pataskala – Smith pleaded guilty Aug. 14 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a fifth-degree felony. He was sentenced to 12 months incarceration, suspended for three years of community control. He was ordered to pay restitution of $41,413 to his former employer, TS Tech Corporation.

Grant Myers of Huron – Myers pleaded guilty Aug. 8 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor. He was sentenced to 30 days incarceration, suspended. He paid BWC $11,566 in restitution.

 Stacy Driskell of Cedar Park, Texas – Driskell pleaded guilty Aug. 3 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor, after investigators found her working for a mortgage lending law firm in Texas while collecting BWC benefits. A judge fined Driskell $300 plus court costs. Prior to the plea, Driskell paid full restitution of $3,056 to BWC.

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

Ag safety means a continuous focus on doing the right things

By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer

Today through Thursday, our Division of Safety & Hygiene will once again have a presence at the Farm Science Review.

For the third straight year, we’ll have a booth at this annual event hosted by The Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Preparing for the event reminded us of a series of articles about safety in the agricultural industry published by Ohio’s Country Journal earlier this year.

The articles (links below) focused on topics ranging from using injury data to prevent future accidents, to the development of an innovative hog loader and to creating a culture of safety in an agricultural workplace.

“I was struck by an underlying theme throughout these articles: that having a safe and healthful work environment requires a continuous, consistent and unrelenting emphasis on doing the right things,” says Bernie Silkowski, director of loss prevention operations with our Division of Safety & Hygiene.

He says this includes management setting the tone by:

  • Assessing the workplace for hazards.
  • Establishing and reinforcing safety procedures and expectations.
  • Providing training and making sure everyone understands and applies it.
  • Seeking employee input about safety issues.
  • Providing the right tools, equipment and PPE to enable everyone to perform their tasks safely.

At the same time, it’s also about employees:

  • Adhering to safe work procedures and not taking shortcuts.
  • Continuously assessing the hazards while performing their work.
  • Pausing to reassess when things aren’t going according to plan.
  • Wearing PPE properly.
  • Approaching a fellow employee who is taking a risk.

“All of these things have to exist all the time for a workplace to be considered high performing in safety and health,” Silkowski adds.

These articles mention a lot of things that high-performing safety organizations do, often with little or no cost. Starting every meeting with a short safety topic costs nothing and keeps everyone’s mind on safety. Requiring hearing protection around loud machinery costs little and helps prevent hearing loss which can take years to develop. Finally, the cost of guarding moving parts on machinery is nothing compared to the costs and disability that can result if an arm becomes caught inside.

The most effective way for an organization to get started on its safety journey – or to see how it’s doing on its own – is to bring in a third party to do a safety assessment and help develop a safety process that works for the employer. Our safety consultants provide this service as part of the premium employers pay to BWC.

We’re here to help protect Ohioans in the agriculture industry. If you’re going to the Farm Science Review this week, stop by exhibit building 2, booth 32 to learn more about how we can help make your farm or business an even safer workplace.

Ohio’s Country Journal articles

2,000 Fraud Hotline calls in 10 months!

By Jeff Baker, Program Administrator, BWC Special Investigations Department

We have received 2,000 calls since we launched our new Fraud Hotline system ten months ago during International Fraud Awareness Week 2017. The 200 calls a month, means we have received nearly 10 each work day, or more than one every working hour!

In our November 14, 2017 blog, we noted that calling the BWC Fraud Hotline is the most interactive and direct way for you to report an allegation of fraud. Our hotline puts you in direct contact with an agent in our Special Investigations Department, one ready and willing to listen to your concerns.

Our hotline agents have years of investigative knowledge, skills and experience securing the essential information from sources. Whether the fraud hotline agent is Connor, Jake, Jeff, Karen, Karie or Loryn, or any of our 25 fraud analysts assigned to our special investigations unit statewide, callers know within seconds that they have reached a committed, respectful professional.

These same agents also receive and process fraud referral forms submitted by sources who report their suspicions via a Report Fraud link on Just last month, for example, the convictions of Jason C. Smith and Walter M. Patterson were the result of fraud referral forms submitted to our hotline.

If you’re concerned about the alleged fraudster discovering your identity, rest assured. Your identity may remain either anonymous or confidential, depending on your preference. In addition, you don’t need to prove any facts or even have 100 percent confidence in your suspicion. You need only to suspect that fraud may have occurred or continues to occur. We’ll take care of the rest.

We look forward to hearing from you, so give us a call at 1-800-644-6292 if you suspect fraud. We will conduct the investigation and determine the facts. Together, we are successfully combatting workers’ compensation fraud in Ohio – one call and referral form at a time.

Thank you for your support!

Time’s running out to apply for our Safety Innovation Awards!

Attention Ohio employers! The application deadline for the 2018 Safety Innovation Awards is just around the corner. To spotlight innovative Ohio employers and their ingenuity, we’re once again seeking entries for our Safety Innovation Award Program.

This annual program awards cash prizes from $1,000 to $6,000 to employers that develop innovative solutions to reduce the risk of workplace injuries and illnesses to their employees.

Public and private employers may apply online on our website by Sept. 30.

Finalists will attend Ohio Safety Congress & Expo 2019 (OSC19) in Columbus on March 6-8, 2019, to present their innovations to a judges’ panel and the public.

OSC19 attendees will determine the recipient of The People’s Choice award. We will present the awards during a ceremony at Safety Congress. Learn more about last year’s winners in the video below.

In addition to cash prizes, finalists and their innovations are:

  • Spotlighted in the Safety Congress event guide seen by thousands of attendees.
  • Featured in an area entirely dedicated to them in the Expo Marketplace at OSC19.
  • Honored in a ceremony at Safety Congress.

We can’t wait to see the ingenious and creative innovation you’ve developed to keep your workers safer and healthier on the job. Apply today!

If you have any questions about the program, email or call us at 1-800-644-6292.

Disasters happen. Are you ready?

By Jodi Lombardo, BWC Employee Safety & Health Administration Manager

Disasters happen. Prepare now. Learn how.

Those three sentences form the theme for this year’s National Preparedness Month.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency sponsors National Preparedness Month each September. Its goal is to encourage Americans to take steps to prepare for emergencies in their homes, businesses, schools and communities.

This month is a great time to learn how to use a fire extinguisher (every home should have one!) and how to keep safe in severe weather.

And it’s always a great time to take a course in lifesaving CPR/AED or trauma first aid. We at BWC offer this training to our own employees.

With the right planning and skills, you’re one of the people your co-workers and loved ones will turn to when disaster strikes. You’ll be instrumental in saving lives in an emergency before first responders can arrive.

This year’s weekly themes are below. Please take some time to review the information contained in each link.

Visit or more information on National Preparedness Month.

Cleveland-area bartender served felony conviction for workers’ comp fraud

Euclid woman owes BWC more than $25K in restitution

A Cleveland-area bartender must reimburse the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) more than $25,000 after pleading guilty Tuesday to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud.

BWC learned in late 2016 that Euclid resident Clarice L. Ward was not attending her physical therapy appointments for her workplace injury and that the BWC-contracted company managing her care couldn’t reach her. As BWC investigated her case, the agency received an anonymous tip that Ward was working at Final Score Bar in Willowick, Ohio, while collecting BWC disability benefits.

“Ms. Ward would not cooperate with our investigators, so we interviewed her former employer and obtained evidence proving her fraudulent activity,” said Jim Wernecke, director of BWC’s special investigations department.

Ward, 40, pleaded guilty Tuesday in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, where the judge sentenced her to six months in prison, suspended for five years of community control, and ordered her to pay BWC $26,578 in restitution.

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

Sharing strategies to battle the opioid epidemic

By Brian Wilson, DC, BWC Medical Projects Director

How do we make headway in combating the opioid epidemic? The fact is there are many answers to that question. We’ve learned here in Ohio that tackling this issue must be a collaborative effort, and we can all learn from each other.

I know from my work with the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions (IAIABC) that my counterparts in other states feel the same.

The IAIABC is an international association of workers’ comp agencies and industry stakeholders. BWC regularly engages IAIABC and its members, leaders at similar agencies across the country, to discuss policy and regulatory issues that affect the workers’ comp industry. One of those leading issues is the opioid epidemic.

I have the honor of working closely with IAIABC and its executive director, Jennifer Wolf-Horejsh, as a member of its Medical Issues Committee. The committee gathers information on how local and state agencies are managing important issues like the use of formularies, drug educational materials and prescription drug monitoring programs.

In June 2018, Ms. Wolf-Horejsh and I had the privilege of speaking at Ohio’s 2018 Opiate Conference in Columbus, Ohio. Here, we gave a glimpse into preliminary findings of the report to-date and compared Ohio to other states for those who attended.

Most recently, I sat on the Opioid Task Force, a multi-state collaborative effort that recently released the Opioid Policy Inventory a compilation of survey data from 33 states and their responses to the opioid epidemic. The report is a summary of major strategies, including which states are using them, along with links to national resources.

Understanding the incredible reach of this issue, and that everyone with a stake in this crisis can learn from each other, the report provides not just a workers’ compensation perspective, but a collective look at what a variety of local and state agencies are doing. Our goal is to create a dynamic and collaborative conversation starter piece for policy-makers across the country.

This report is important because it allows states to review strategies that are working elsewhere and they may be able to replicate. It could also stimulate fresh ideas. Thanks to all the outstanding committee members whom I served alongside during the development of this document.

I hope you’ll take the time to review the report* and use it as a reference, especially if you’re involved in efforts to ease the impact of this epidemic in your community.

*This is a living report and it will be updated as states report new strategies to the IAIABC.