‘Tis the season for parking-lot perils

By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer

Let’s face it, parking lots can be harrowing under the best of circumstances. Throw in wintry weather and/or holiday shopping, and the mayhem increases exponentially.

However, there are steps you can take to make navigating them a little less scary. First, let’s talk about walking hazards.

Whether you’re at work or at the mall, remember to slow down and focus on walking (putting your phone away helps) when there is snow and ice. Check the weather forecast and plan your footwear accordingly. Snow boots are better than two or three-inch heels when an ice storm is in the forecast. Finally, walk with your feet turned outward and in small shuffling steps when pos­sible. You know, like a duck.

It’s always important to practice personal security in park­ing areas, but even more so when shopping during the holidays.

  • Park in well-lit areas and scan the parking lot for threats while leaving or arriving at your vehicle.
  • Avoid shopping alone whenever possible.
  • Beware of strangers approaching you for any reason.
  • Have your keys ready – to help you enter and exit your vehicle quickly.
  • Do not leave new purchases in plain view in your vehicle. Put bags and packages in the trunk.
  • Don’t overload yourself with bags. Doing so makes you an easy target, and can make it easier to slip and fall on ice or snow.
  • Above all – stay alert and aware of your surroundings always. Not to harp on it, but putting your phone away helps.

Limited spaces and frantic shoppers can turn parking lots into a free-for-all at this time of year.

The following tips will make your next trip to the mall safer and happier.

  • Be aware and look in all direc­tions as you travel.
  • Drive slowly and watch for cars that might be cutting diagonally across the lot.
  • Use turn signals and yield the right of way to cars travelling along aisles.
  • Look for spots where you can pull through and face out to prevent the need for backing out.

Try to park in the center of a parking space. Don’t be the person who parks over the line, diagonal or not into a space far enough. Doing so may not give other drivers enough room to park their car without harming yours.

Spending just a little extra time to park will improve your chances of avoiding an accident.

Southwest Ohio business owner gets prison time, hefty fine for work comp fraud

Business owner defrauded BWC of $425K

The owner of a former payroll services company in southwest Ohio was sentenced to six months in federal prison and fined $10,000 today for defrauding the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) out of more than $425,000.

John R. Cacaro, 59, owner of the now-defunct Employers Choice Plus LLC, also must serve one year of house arrest and three years of supervised release under a sentence handed down by U.S. District Judge Michael H. Watson in the U.S. District Court for southern Ohio.

“Multiple businesses entrusted Mr. Cacaro with processing their payroll and remitting insurance premiums to our agency and he broke that trust,” said Jim Wernecke, director of BWC’s special investigations department. “Justice was served today and I can’t thank our partners in this investigation enough, the IRS Criminal Investigation unit and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio.”

Cacaro was convicted in June on wire fraud and money laundering charges after BWC and IRS investigators discovered a scheme he concocted to short BWC on the insurance premiums he received from employers and pocket the difference.

“John Cacaro made a conscious decision to keep over $425,000 in workers’ compensation premiums so he could live a lavish lifestyle that included the purchase of a second residence in Naples, Florida, and a motor home,” said IRS Special Agent in Charge Ryan L. Korner. “Now he is a convicted felon headed to prison.”

At his sentencing today, Cacaro submitted a cashier’s check to the court for $425,247 in restitution to BWC. He noted that he has voluntarily closed Employers Choice Plus and he will likely have gainful employment through his car transportation business when he leaves prison.

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

Drug-trafficking nurse practitioner, other work comp cheats convicted in November

Eight Ohioans convicted on workers’ compensation fraud or related charges in November include a Springfield nurse practitioner who pleaded guilty to felony drug trafficking and a Cleveland-area man who collected $245,000 in disability benefits while working construction jobs since 2009.

Douglas Shrewsbury pleaded guilty Nov. 16 to several drug charges in the Clark County Court of Common Pleas after multiple authorities found him running a pain clinic without a proper license. The charges included aggravated trafficking in drugs, a first-degree felony, aggravated possession of drugs, a second-degree felony, and Medicaid fraud, a fourth-degree felony.

“Mr. Shrewsbury wrote 56 prescriptions for schedule II narcotics to injured workers in our system without an overseeing physician, which is beyond his scope and illegal,” said Jim Wernecke, director of the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation special investigations department.

Other agencies involved in the investigation included lead agency the Ohio Board of Pharmacy, the Springfield Police Department, Ohio Board of Nursing, State Medical Board of Ohio, Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation, and the Clark County Prosecutor’s Office.

Shrewsbury’s sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 27.  

In the Cleveland-area case, Louis Cooper of North Royalton pleaded guilty Nov. 19 in a federal courtroom to one count of theft of government property and wire fraud. He was released on a $20,000 unsecured bond and must surrender his passport and participate in a pre-sentence investigation prior to his March 5 sentencing.

Acting on a tip, BWC investigators found Cooper working as a self-employed general contractor, installing flooring and drywall and remodeling bathrooms. Due to concealing his work activity, Cooper fraudulently secured approximately $245,000 in benefits from the Social Security Administration and BWC, of which $167,000 came from BWC.

In order of most recent court appearance, other BWC subjects convicted in November include:

Dean Richards of Lancaster
Richards pleaded guilty Nov. 29 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor, after BWC agents found him working as a construction subcontractor while receiving permanent disability benefits from BWC. He was sentenced to 23 days in jail, credited for time served, and ordered to pay BWC $6,614 in restitution.

James T. Wilson Jr, dba Performance Companies, of New Albany
Wilson pleaded guilty Nov. 19 in a Columbus courtroom to a second-degree misdemeanor count of failure to comply after BWC investigators found him operating Performance Companies LLC/Enviro Recycling Group without workers’ compensation coverage. Sentencing will occur after BWC finishes auditing his business records.

Dwayne Dotson of Cleveland
Dotson pleaded guilty Nov. 14 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a fifth-degree felony, after BWC found him working as a self-employed general contractor while receiving disability benefits. He was given three years of probation and ordered to pay BWC $14,453 in restitution.

Yue Liang, dba New Sheng Hung, of Cleveland
Liang pleaded guilty Nov. 13 to a first-degree misdemeanor charge of workers’ compensation fraud after he lapsed on a repayment plan related to his 2014 conviction on a similar charge. The food warehouse and market owner agreed to pay BWC $5,500 toward the balance owed to the agency and an additional $2,000 in restitution. He was sentenced to one year of community control and ordered to bring his policy into compliance.

Douglas Rheaume of New Franklin
Rheaume pleaded guilty Nov. 13 to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud after BWC found the former sheriff’s deputy operating a baseball training facility and working as an insurance agent while collecting BWC benefits. A judge sentenced Rheaume to a suspended nine-month prison term and ordered him to serve two years of probation. Additionally, he was ordered to pay $56,000 in restitution to BWC.

Stephanie Terry, dba Universal Fleet & Tire Service, of Cincinnati
Terry pleaded guilty Nov. 5 to one count of obstructing official business, a second-degree misdemeanor, after BWC found her operating her business with employees and lapsed BWC coverage. Two of her employees had filed injury claims while the coverage was lapsed. Terry paid $27,947 to BWC for the balance she owed the agency.

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

Older Ohioans: Know your abilities and options to stay on the road safely

Posted on the BWC Blog with permission from our friends at the Ohio Department of Aging and Ohio Department of Transportation.

Because being able to get around in the community is critical for older Ohioans to remain independent and healthy, the Ohio Department of Aging and the Ohio Department of Transportation are partnering to increase awareness of available resources for older drivers during Older Driver Safety Awareness Week, Dec. 3-7, 2018.

Drivers age 65 and older represent the fastest-growing segment of licensed drivers in Ohio and across the nation. While older drivers are among the safest drivers on our roads, they may be more likely to be seriously injured in a crash. Ohio has seen four consecutive years of rising traffic deaths involving drivers age 65 and older.

To maintain their mobility, older Ohioans should become aware of their changing abilities, understand the factors that can increase the risk of a crash and learn about resources in their communities to maintain their driving ability or find alternatives to driving.

Normal aging may increase common risk factors for roadway accidents, including changes in vision, hearing, strength, visibility, reflexes and memory. Medical conditions and certain medications also may impact the ability to drive safely. Older drivers also may drive older vehicles that no longer fit their needs (e.g., too big or too small, or seats, steering wheel and mirrors do not adjust sufficiently). Finally, a fear of driving and traffic can increase the risk of a crash.

Tips for older driver safety:

  • Stay aware of your changing physical, vision and hearing abilities and adjust your driving habits accordingly. Exercise regularly to increase and maintain your strength and flexibility.
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist if any medical conditions you have or medications you take could make it unsafe to drive.
  • Try to do most of your driving during daylight and in good weather. Avoid busy roadways and rush hours whenever possible.
  • Plan your route before you drive and choose routes with well-lit streets, intersections with left turn signals and easy parking.
  • Avoid distractions while driving, including talking or texting on a cell phone, eating, or listening to a loud radio. In-car conversations can also be distracting.
  • Leave plenty of room between you and the vehicle in front of you so that you can react if the other driver stops or slows suddenly.
  • Do not drive too slowly, as this can be as unsafe as speeding.

The Ohio Department of Aging offers a webpage (www.aging.ohio.gov/transportation) of transportation and driving tips and resources for older adults. The page includes a link to “Stay Fit to Drive,” a publication of the Ohio Department of Transportation that includes statistics about older driver crashes and tips to reduce key risk factors.