Central Ohio man convicted of work comp fraud

Employment scheme implicates girlfriend

A Lancaster man must pay the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation nearly $7,000 in restitution after pleading guilty to workers’ compensation fraud Monday for a scheme that could land his girlfriend in court as well.

Charles Malone, 43, worked for a heating and air conditioning company for six months in 2016 while simultaneously collecting injured worker benefits from BWC. To hide his employment, he duped his employer into issuing his paychecks to his girlfriend in her name.

“He gave his employer a plausible explanation, and they fell for it,” said Jim Wernecke, director of BWC’s special investigations department. “As for the girlfriend, she could also face charges for her role in helping Mr. Malone defraud our agency.”

A judge in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas sentenced Malone to 180 days in jail, the maximum for a first-degree misdemeanor. He then suspended the jail sentence for five years of community control (probation) under the condition that Malone maintains employment and pays BWC $6,879 in restitution.

In other fraud news, a Cleveland-area man pleaded guilty on Monday to a first-degree misdemeanor charge of workers’ compensation fraud after BWC investigators discovered him operating his sports video business while collecting disability benefits.

A Franklin County judge ordered Kyle E. Goodwin, 47, of Westlake, to pay BWC $2,978 in restitution. He sentenced Goodwin to 180 days in jail (suspended) and 12 months of community control.

Acting on a tip, BWC investigators found Goodwin continued working for his business, OhioSportsNet LLC, in 2016 and 2017 after he claimed to be temporarily totally disabled. They found he earned $9,025 obtaining, editing and producing videos for various high school sports teams, sports clubs and high school athletes.

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

BWC secures three convictions in January

Two for work comp fraud, one for lapsed coverage

A funeral home worker and two cleaning company owners owe the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation $30,000 after pleading guilty to workers’ compensation fraud or related charges in January, the bureau’s first convictions of the new year.

“It’s thanks to honest citizens who report suspected fraud that we’re able to investigate many of our cases and stop this criminal activity in its tracks,” said Jim Wernecke, director of BWC’s special investigations department (SID). “The money we recover from people trying to cheat our system will go where it rightfully belongs — taking care of injured workers and helping employers create safer workplaces across this state.”

Those convicted include:

Oran Lewis of Columbus, Working and Receiving — Acting on a tip, investigators surveilled Lewis and uncovered evidence proving he worked for two funeral homes as a funeral procession escort on multiple occasions while collecting injured worker benefits from BWC.

Lewis pleaded guilty on Jan. 24 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a fifth-degree felony. He was sentenced to 180 days in jail, which was suspended for one year of community control (probation). He must pay $10,442 in restitution to BWC.

Amanda Joy Klapp of Hudson, Ohio, dba Amanda Joy Cleaning Company LLC, Under Reporting Payroll — BWC’s employer fraud team received an anonymous allegation that Klapp was operating her business without workers’ compensation coverage. Agents discovered that Klapp had employees when she opened her business in 2013, but she didn’t secure BWC coverage until 2015. She then intentionally under-reported her payroll to avoid paying a higher premium. When she stopped paying her premiums and her policy lapsed, she attempted to take out a new policy using her husband’s name to avoid paying the balance owed on her original policy.

Klapp pleaded guilty Jan. 9 to three counts of workers’ compensation fraud, all first-degree misdemeanors, in Stow Municipal Court in Summit County. A judge sentenced her to 180 days in jail with 150 days suspended and ordered her to serve 30 days of house arrest. The judge fined Klapp $500 on each count, then suspended half the total. The judge ordered Klapp to bring her workers’ compensation coverage into compliance within 30 days and to pay $14,000 in restitution to BWC.

Robert Settlemoir of Columbus, dba Pro Clean Carpet and Upholstery, Lapsed Coverage — Investigators found Pro Clean Carpet and Upholstery had been operating since 2011 without workers’ compensation coverage. BWC attempted to work with Settlemoir to bring his policy into compliance, but Settlemoir failed to take the necessary steps.

Settlemoir pleaded guilty on Jan. 25 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor. He was sentenced to 180 days in jail, suspended for two years of community control. Conditions of community control are that Settlemoir obtain employment and pay restitution of $5,482 to BWC.

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

Working while receiving?

By Jeff Baker, Program Administrator, BWC Special Investigations Department

Working while receiving benefits is one of the most common types of fraud our investigators uncover. In fiscal year 2017, 57 out of 133 criminal convictions were claimants working while receiving lost time benefits to which they were not entitled.

Working while receiving is one of the most obvious and flagrant abuses of the system. It is particularly regrettable since the claimants were, at one time, truly injured and entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.

We make every effort to ensure that each claimant knows the well-established rules. The fraud warning messages are clear, explicit and conspicuously placed on forms. For example, a fraud warning message (pictured below) appears on the BWC form to be signed by a claimant to request temporary total lost time benefits.

Fortunately, the vast majority of claimants return to work when they are able and notify BWC that they intend to do so. They understand and accept that their lost time benefits achieved their essential purpose – they provided compensation while the claimant temporarily could not work and was recuperating from an accident, illness or injury.

No matter how clever an individual may be, if he or she commits the crime of returning to work while receiving workers’ compensation benefits, the tell-tale signs remain. Rest assured, we are looking for, investigating, and prosecuting these cases. They will lose their lost time benefits and perhaps their freedom as well.

Funeral escort earns felony conviction for work comp fraud

Judge shows little sympathy, orders $10K in restitution

A Columbus man injured in 2014 while working as a motorcycle escort for funeral processions must reimburse the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) more than $10,400 after pleading guilty to workers’ compensation fraud Wednesday in a Columbus courtroom.

Acting on a tip, BWC investigators conducted surveillance and collected evidence proving Oran Lewis, 66, worked for two different funeral homes in 2015 while collecting disability benefits from BWC.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re driving a vehicle or doing hard labor — it’s against the law to collect disability benefits from BWC when you’re also working and making a living,” said Jim Wernecke, director of BWC’s special investigations department. “What’s more, we’re not talking about a one-time incident or occasional odd job here and there. We found Mr. Lewis performing this service 29 times between May and October of 2015.”

Lewis confessed to the crime and cooperated with BWC when he was approached by agents.

A Franklin County Court of Common Pleas judge also sentenced Lewis to 180 days in jail (suspended) and one year of probation for the fifth-degree felony.

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

Cleaning company owner soils record with fraud conviction

Northeast Ohio woman to serve house arrest, pay $14K restitution

The owner of a Hudson, Ohio, cleaning business must serve 30 days under house arrest and pay $14,000 in restitution to the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation after pleading guilty to workers’ compensation fraud Jan. 9.

Amanda Joy Klapp, owner of Amanda Joy’s Cleaning Company, also must bring her BWC coverage into compliance within 30 days and pay $750 in fines.

“Our agents found Ms. Klapp trying to cheat BWC in a number of ways,” said Jim Wernecke, director of BWC’s special investigations department. “She had employees when she opened her business in 2013, but she didn’t secure BWC coverage until 2015. She then intentionally under-reported her payroll to avoid paying a higher premium. And when she stopped paying her premiums and her policy lapsed, she attempted to take out a new policy using her husband’s name to avoid paying the balance owed on her original policy.”

Appearing in Stow Municipal Court in Summit County, Klapp pleaded guilty to three first-degree misdemeanor counts of workers’ compensation fraud and was fined $500 on each count. The judge suspended half of the fines and 150 days of a 180-day jail sentence, ordering the remaining 30 days to be served under house arrest.

In other news, the bureau secured three fraud-related convictions in December, bringing the total number of convictions in calendar year 2017 to 130.

Eric Payne of Hamilton, Ohio, pleaded guilty Dec. 13, in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud after BWC agents found him working as a home and building inspector while collecting $8,126 in temporary total disability between February and August 2015. Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 23.

David Proffitt of Plain City, Ohio, pleaded guilty Dec. 12 to a first-degree misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud after investigators found him working as a golf coach while collecting BWC benefits. A Franklin County judge declined to sentence Proffitt or order restitution.

Beth Amirault of Dublin, Ohio, dba A Place to Grow, pleaded guilty Dec. 5 to a second-degree misdemeanor count of failure to comply after investigators found she had been operating her child care center without work comp coverage since 2005. Amirault initially cooperated with BWC to bring her policy back into compliance, then failed to follow through on her reinstatement plan. A Franklin County judge sentenced her to 90 days in jail (suspended), two years of probation and ordered her to pay fines and court costs.

To report suspected workers’ compensation fraud, visit bwc.ohio.gov or call 1-800-644-6292 and select option “0”, then option “4”.

Ohio carpenter nailed for work comp fraud

Pomeroy man one of two southeastern Ohioans convicted of fraud last week

A southeastern Ohio man must reimburse the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) more than $23,000 after investigators found him working several jobs while collecting injured worker’s benefits.

Ernest Shawn Baker, 45, of Pomeroy in Meigs County, also must serve five years of community control after pleading guilty to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud Nov. 29 in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas. His probation could terminate sooner upon full payment of $23,128 in restitution.

“We discovered that Mr. Baker went back to work as a carpenter soon after his injury in 2014, and he deliberately didn’t tell us,” said Jim Wernecke, director of BWC’s special investigations department. “We interviewed union officials and others and found he had worked for a dozen different employers while defrauding our agency.”

In another fraud case, an Athens County man on BWC benefits since 1997 has lost his benefits after investigators found him working again for cash under the table.

Mark McIntosh, 51, of Millfield, pleaded guilty Nov. 28 in a Franklin County courtroom to a first-degree misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud. A judge fined McIntosh $100, then suspended it, and declined to order restitution because of McIntosh’s age and financial situation.

McIntosh worked as a log seller and chain saw operator when he was injured on the job in January 1997. Acting on a tip, BWC investigators found him overseeing a firewood processing plant and hauling firewood while concurrently receiving permanent total disability benefits.

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

Cleveland convict adds work comp fraud to criminal record

State crimes followed 2015 conviction on several federal charges

A Cleveland garbage hauler and construction worker serving time in a federal prison for fraud, money laundering and violating the Clean Air Act pleaded guilty to workers’ compensation fraud last week.

Christopher Gattarello, 53, pleaded guilty Nov. 22 to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud for working while receiving temporary disability benefits from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. A judge in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas sentenced Gattarello to 186 days in jail with credit for time served.

“This was pretty easy detective work on our part, thanks to our customer claims staff,” said Jim Wernecke, director of BWC’s special investigations department. “Every time our claims representatives telephoned Gattarello about his injury claim, they could hear construction noise in the background. We simply followed up from there.”

Wernecke noted that Gattarello’s fraud against BWC started in March 2015, the same month he was convicted on the federal charges. BWC investigators determined Gattarello worked as a driver/heavy equipment operator through Aug. 16 that year and again from November 2015 through June 2016 while concurrently receiving BWC benefits.

Gattarello, the owner of several Cleveland-area garbage-hauling companies, was sentenced in June this year to 57-months in prison for ordering the 2012 demolition of the asbestos-laden National Acme Building in Cleveland’s Glenville neighborhood. Gattarello had been leasing the building and storing garbage there. The demolition released harmful toxins into the air near several homes and a school.

In a related case, Gattarello also was convicted in 2015 for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering for defrauding a Louisiana company out of nearly $1.2 million. He was accused of submitting false invoices for work his companies never performed, then using more than $12,000 of ill-gotten money to pay off his personal credit card.

Other news
In a separate BWC fraud case last week, another Cleveland-area man pleaded guilty to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud for working while receiving BWC benefits.

A Franklin County judge on Nov. 22 ordered Timothy S. Lumsden, 50, of Avon Lake, to pay BWC $5,385 in restitution. He also sentenced Lumsden to 11 months in jail (suspended) and community control for three years.

Acting on a tip in 2015, BWC investigators determined Lumsden had returned to work as an independent carpenter at the Federal Knitting Mills Building in Cleveland while collecting temporary total disability benefits.

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