Fraud conviction costs construction worker $16K

A Jackson County man owes the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) nearly $16,000 after pleading guilty to fraud Wednesday in a Franklin County courtroom.

Daniel McClellan, 36, pleaded guilty to a first-degree misdemeanor charge of workers’ compensation fraud after BWC investigators found him working multiple jobs while collecting temporary disability benefits for a workplace injury he suffered as a roofer in 2009. A judge ordered McClellan to pay BWC $11,875 in restitution and $4,000 for the cost of its investigation.

“Mr. McClellan was not supposed to be working and earning income while receiving these benefits, but we discovered he had been working in construction and other trades as far back as 2012,” said Jim Wernecke, director of BWC’s Special Investigations Department.

McClellan, who lives in the village of Coalton 70 miles southeast of Columbus, was also sentenced to a year of community control in lieu of six months in jail.

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

Are you keeping current with electrical safety?

May is National Electrical Safety Month

By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer

Electricity is something we take for granted. Whether it’s brewing our first cup of coffee in the morning, charging our phone or lighting our home, we rely on it and rarely stop to think about where it comes from. Unfortunately, we can easily overlook the hazards it can pose as well.

Each year, the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) sponsors National Electrical Safety Month to remind the public of these hazards with the goal of reducing electrically-related fatalities, injuries and property loss.

This year’s theme is “Decoding the National Electrical Code® (NEC) to Prevent Shock and Electrocution.” All 50 states have adopted the NEC, also referred to as the NFPA 70, as the standard for safe electrical installation, inspection and use to protect people and property from avoidable electrical hazards at home and in the workplace. As part of this year’s campaign, the ESFI has created the following infographics.

Electrical safety and the workplace
The most-recent EFSI data indicate there were 2,480 nonfatal workplace electrical injuries resulting in days away from work in 2015, the highest level since 2009. Additionally, 134 work-related electrical fatalities occurred in 2015. The highest rate of fatal electrical injury occurred in the utility industry, followed closely by the construction industry.

We’re here to help you identify hazards and reduce the risk of electrical injuries and fatalities in your workplace with our free consulting services. Our library also offers numerous resources on this topic and we have two training courses scheduled in June in our Canton customer service office (see descriptions below).

Electrical Basics (half-day course)
This course is for workers who work with or are exposed to electrical hazards in the workplace as well as employees responsible for safety programs at their facilities including administrators, supervisors, safety coordinators, safety teams and frontline workers. It covers:

  • The components of an electrical safe work practice program;
  • Strategies and tools for developing a written electrical safe work practice program;
  • OSHA compliance issues relevant to electrical safe work practices.

Electrical Hazard Recognition and Abatement (multi-day course)
This course is for individuals responsible for electrical safety, including safety and maintenance personnel, engineers and others who need to improve their hazard recognition skills. The course focuses on hazard recognition rather than design or engineering, and participants do not need a background in electricity. It covers:

  • Electrical hazard recognition and fundamentals from a safety perspective;
  • Basic physical laws that control electrical actions;
  • Effects of electrical shock on the human body;
  • Recognition and prevention of the four kinds of electrical hazards – shocks, burns, explosions and fires;
  • Grounding concepts, including equipment ground, ground fault circuit interrupters and system grounding;
  • OSHA, NEC and Ohio Administrative Code regulations and their application.

To register for these classes or any of our other course offerings, visit the BWC Learning Center.

Construction worker’s fraud scheme collapses

A Marion man who claimed to be permanently disabled owes the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) $160,000 after pleading guilty Wednesday to a fourth-degree felony charge of workers’ compensation fraud.

Appearing in a Franklin County courtroom, Jimmie Rankin, 45, was also sentenced to five years of community control for collecting BWC benefits after he had gone back to work in the construction industry and deliberately withheld that information from BWC.

“We found Mr. Rankin working as a subcontractor and getting paid with cash and checks made out to other people so he could avoid a paper trail and stay beneath our radar,” said Jim Wernecke, director of BWC’s Special Investigations Department. “But thanks in part to tips from honest citizens, we were able to stop this fraud and bring Mr. Rankin to justice.”

Working with Rankin’s employers, investigators determined Rankin had been employed at least since March 2011, a little more than three years after his workplace injury and while he was collecting temporary disability benefits. He later secured permanent total disability benefits from BWC and, while working, collected those benefits from June 2012 to May 2016.

A judged warned Rankin that if he violates the terms of his community control, he would serve 18 months in prison.

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

Cincinnati tax preparer convicted of workers’ comp fraud

A Cincinnati-area man who claimed to be permanently disabled from work while earning more than $100,000 preparing tax returns owes the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) nearly $57,000 in restitution.

A judge ordered Fernando Cruz, of Maineville in Warren County, to pay BWC $2,000 up front, followed by payments of at least $150 a month, according to his May 12 sentence on a fifth-degree felony conviction for workers’ compensation fraud.

“Mr. Cruz was supposed to be permanently and totally disabled from work, but we found evidence that he was working as a tax preparer from at least January 2011 through December 2014,” said Jim Wernecke, director of BWC’s Special Investigations Department. “It doesn’t matter if you’re sitting at a desk crunching numbers or spreading asphalt in the hot July sun — if you’re working and earning income, in this case more than $100,000, you’re not permanently disabled and you’re not entitled to BWC benefits.”

Cruz, 68, owes BWC $56,705. A Franklin County judge sentenced him to five years of community control and warned him that he will serve 11 months in jail if he violates the conditions of his control. She also ordered Cruz to return to court Sept. 7 with a financial statement indicating his ability to pay.

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

We took a STAND-Down to prevent falls

By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer

Some highly-skilled instructors and one dummy helped drive home the importance of proper fall protection training and equipment at a Safety Stand-Down event we hosted last Friday.

A packed house attended the free training led by experts from Honeywell Safety Products at our Ohio Center for Occupational Safety and Health in Pickerington. The event, held in conjunction with the National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction, was a huge success.

Mark Cangemi, a trainer with Honeywell Safety Products, started with an informative presentation highlighting OSHA’s rule updates to walking-working surfaces standards and establishing personal fall protection systems requirements.

He stressed that the key to fall prevention is the elimination of hazards, citing the mantra of:

– Eliminating hazards at the outset;
– Administrative controls;
– Personal protective equipment (PPE).

He reiterated that PPE is actually the last line of defense for fall prevention, and said, “Just using the equipment is not enough to save your life; you must also use it correctly.”

After the classroom portion of the training, attendees moved outdoors for a demonstration of falls with or without fall-arrest systems.

The demonstration, led by Cangemi and Honeywell’s Dave Gallegly, used a weighted dummy to show realistic re-enactments under various conditions.

Cangemi also demonstrated how to properly don body a body harness and what to do after a fall but before being rescued.

Earlier in the week, our Youngstown Customer Service Office staff worked with Boak & Sons, Inc. to have a Safety Stand-Down event in the Youngstown area. Boak & Sons hosted the event in its large warehouse complete with needed equipment, set-up and refreshments for 101 attendees from 31 companies.

  

Representatives from RETTEW of Lancaster, Pennsylvania provided the training. The 60-minute high-intensity training started at 7:30 a.m. to allow workers to attend before going to work. It covered the principles of fall prevention, fall protection and fall rescue.

BWC actively participated in numerous stand-down events across Ohio last week, including joining the Ohio Department of Transportation for stand-downs at four major highway bridge construction sites around the state. Work paused at these sites to discuss safety and fall protection with staff. We also participated in seven events in the Cincinnati area that totaled 600 employees, including 200 at one event alone.

Additionally, many safety councils got into the act by addressing fall prevention at their April meetings.  Eighteen councils in the Canton/Cambridge area are participating in a “safety council challenge” to see which one has the largest percentage of its members holding their own Stand-Down events during the month of May.

Stand-Down events like these are critical for stemming the tide of falls in the workplace. Cangemi reminded attendees at the Pickerington event that from 1992 to 2016 there were approximately two fatalities a day from workplace falls in the U.S; in 2016 there were 800 fatalities from workplace falls.

Nearly 30 percent of all claims filed with BWC are from fall injuries, and falls in Ohio result in an average of 14 fatalities a year. The majority of these incidents were preventable through awareness, training and proper use of equipment.

Want to see more from Safety Stand-Down events around the country? Check out this Twitter storify link.

Office manager gets diversion program for fudging payroll reports

BWC investigative unit closes 7 fraud cases in April

A Hocking County woman who falsified payroll reports to save her employer more than $52,000 in workers’ compensation premiums will avoid a criminal record for her actions if she successfully completes a diversion program by July 20.

But Carla Mohler must plead guilty to workers’ compensation fraud if she fails to do the following by the July deadline: perform 24 hours of community service, complete a course on controlling workers’ compensation costs and reimburse the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation $5,167, the cost of investigating her.

“This case is disappointing because we offer a number of programs that could potentially lower an employer’s workers’ compensation premiums,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Sarah Morrison. “All employers need to do is call us and we’ll work with them. Cheating BWC is a perilous path that jeopardizes a company’s future while raising costs for everyone else in the system.”

Mohler, an office manager, has already completed a BWC course on controlling workers’ comp costs, and her employer, the Construction Crew in Logan, reimbursed BWC $52,171 for the premium underpayment.

Mohler’s case was one of seven work comp fraud cases BWC’s Special Investigations Department closed in April. One of those cases, which BWC reported last week, involved a Cleveland doctor who pleaded guilty to felony charges of drug trafficking, workers’ comp fraud and tampering with records.

Dr. Stephen Bernie, 77, paid $30,000 in restitution to BWC and must serve one year of probation in lieu of a six-month jail sentence. Coworker Dianne Javier also paid $30,000 in restitution to BWC and must serve one year of probation after pleading guilty to workers’ comp fraud and tampering with records.

Other cases closed last month and not yet publicly reported by BWC include:

Luebertha Greer of Youngstown, Working and Receiving
Investigators found Greer working as a telephone operator for a medical practice while receiving BWC benefits. She pleaded guilty April 18 to a first-degree misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud. She was sentenced to five years of community control in lieu of 90 days in jail and ordered to pay $2,577 in restitution to BWC.

John O’Rourke of Fredericktown, Working and Receiving
Investigators found O’Rourke knowingly returned to work as a truck driver while receiving BWC benefits. O’Rourke pleaded guilty April 18 to a first-degree misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud. He was sentenced to 30 days jail, which was suspended. He was also ordered to pay $2,002 in restitution to BWC and was placed on community control for two years.

Amy Powers of Fayette, dba R&A Trucking, Lapsed Coverage
Investigators discovered Powers operating a business with multiple employees without valid BWC coverage. BWC referred her case to the Fulton County Prosecutor’s office after several attempts to help Powers bring her policy into compliance with Ohio law. Powers pleaded guilty April 4 to two first-degree misdemeanor counts of attempted workers’ compensation fraud. Powers paid $28,773 in restitution to BWC during her court appearance. Sentencing will be scheduled at a later date.

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

BWC nurses help provide quality, holistic care for Ohio’s injured workers

By Mary Charney, BWC Director of Nursing

Nursing: The Balance of Mind, Body and Spirit. That’s the theme for National Nurses Week that runs this week until Friday, May 12. This year’s holistic theme also reflects BWC’s approach to caring for Ohio’s injured workers.

BWC’s 58 nurses work in a variety of areas, from medical policy and employee health to rehabilitation, claims management and clinical advisement.

They help Ohio’s injured workers and each of us remember to balance our lives — our mind, body and spirit — for total wellness.

National Nurses Week is a good time for all of us to appreciate nurses and thank them for what they do. Take time to remember the last time you talked with a nurse and how that nurse helped you. Nurses make a difference in our health care journey throughout life.

Nursing is the largest of all health care professions, according to the American Nurses Association (ANA), which declared 2017 to be the Year of the Healthy Nurse. Accordingly, the association is encouraging nurses to be healthy role models for the rest of us.

In its Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation™ Grand Challenge, the ANA states thatNurses, at 3.6 million strong and the most trusted profession, have the power to make a difference! By choosing nutritious foods and an active lifestyle, managing stress, living tobacco-free, getting preventive immunizations and screenings, and choosing protective measures such as wearing sunscreen and bicycle helmets, nurses can set an example on how to BE healthy.”

For more information on National Nurses Week, visit the American Nursing Association’s National Nurses’ Week website. Again, thank you to our nurses!