Personal safety tips for work, home, and transit

At BWC we believe it’s vital for our employees to feel safe coming to and leaving work, but we know that can be a challenge with fewer daylight hours this time of year.

We urge all employees to be mindful of their surroundings, safety and security at all times. Our security team has put together these tips for our employees and would like to share so others can do the same.

  • On the street, be aware. Don’t stare at your phone or listen to loud music on headphones. Pay attention to your surroundings so you can react quickly if something goes wrong. Trust your instincts.
  • On public transit, tell the driver if someone seems suspicious. While you’re waiting for transit to arrive, stand with other people in a well-lit place. When you exit transit, pay attention to who’s leaving with you and seek help in the nearest building if you feel like someone’s following you.
  • In your vehicle, never leave your keys in the ignition, and park in well-lit areas. Always lock your vehicle and roll up your windows when you leave. Make sure nothing of value is visible in your parked vehicle.
  • At home, lock your doors with deadbolts when you come and go. Don’t leave spare keys outside, no matter how well you hide them. Don’t let strangers into your apartment hallways or lobbies, and always report suspicious people. When you’re on vacation, never leave a message on your voicemail or social media saying you’re not home.

Download these tips to remind your employees to stay safe. Please remember, if you see something or someone that looks odd or suspicious at work, report it to your manager or security office.

When it comes to parking lots, it’s not always merry or bright

By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer

With Cyber Monday behind us and time ticking away to finish all our holiday shopping, many of us will turn to old-fashioned brick-and-mortar stores down the final stretch. This also means dealing with parking lot mayhem.

Too few parking spaces and too many shoppers can turn even the calmest among us into stressed-out maniacs and parking lots into a free-for-all. Remember the following tips to make your next trip to the mall safer and happier.

  • Be aware, and scan 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.
  • If you can find one, park in a spot where you can pull through and face out to prevent the need for backing out.

Don’t be the person who parks over the line, diagonal, or not far enough into a space. Doing so may not give other drivers enough room to park their cars without harming yours. Also, it’s just rude.

Don’t forget to practice personal security in park­ing areas, especially 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.
  • Don’t let would-be thieves do any window shopping. 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.

Once you’re parked, remember to slow down and focus on walking when there is snow and ice (Putting your phone away helps.). Check the weather forecast, and plan your footwear accordingly. Snow boots are better than 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.

This safety council meeting was a life-saver – literally

By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer

With Thanksgiving just days away, Don Croy has a lot to be thankful for – most of all that he’s still here to celebrate it.

Don Croy (right) with his life-saving instructor Crystal Plumpe after his recovery.

The 63-year-old business owner, father, and grandfather from Ottawa, Ohio, says going to a local safety council meeting in late February literally saved his life.

“I wouldn’t be talking with you today if I hadn’t gone to the meeting that day,” Croy said in a recent interview with BWC. “Without a doubt, it saved my life.”

On Feb. 27, Croy attended the monthly meeting hosted by the Safety Council of Putnam County. The guest speaker – local firefighter/paramedic Crystal Plumpe – gave a presentation about heart attacks in the workplace. After the meeting, Croy went about his workday as president of his landscaping business, Croy’s Mowing Ltd.

Timing is everything

Later that day, Croy, who serves as a trustee for Ottawa Township, was at home before the trustees’ meeting that night and felt like he had a case of heartburn, which was unusual for him.

With Plumpe’s presentation still fresh in his mind, he told his wife, Teresa, the symptoms weren’t going away and he might need to see a doctor. She took him to an emergency room a mile from their home.

While there, he suffered a full-blown heart attack, was placed in an ambulance and rushed to Mercy Health – St. Rita’s Medical Center in Lima.

“In the ambulance I was fighting for every breath. I was trying to keep my eyes open,” he recalled. “I closed my eyes briefly and when I opened them, one of the medics was standing over me with shock paddles.”

Upon arrival at the hospital, he was taken immediately to surgery and received a heart stent. After a few days of recovery, he returned to the office and began easing himself back into running his business.

Lesson learned

“When you go to a seminar, you’ll always learn at least one thing,” said Croy. “That morning I learned if you think you’re having a heart attack, don’t wait to get help. Eleven hours later, that knowledge is what kept me from dying. Who would have known?”

Plumpe said she’s just glad Croy took what he had just learned and realized not to downplay his symptoms.

“He told me that before my class, he would have told himself to ‘man up’ and ignore his signs and symptoms,” she recalled. “Based on what he told me happened that evening after my class, he probably wouldn’t be alive today if he would have ignored what his body was telling him.”

Amy Sealts, director of economic development for Putnam County and the safety council’s coordinator, vividly remembers the conversation she had with Croy after his heart attack and recovery.

“He was emotional when I talked to him the day after the heart attack,” Sealts recalled. “I remember him saying, ‘That lady saved my life.’ I still get goosebumps when I think about it.”

Thankful to still be here

A week and a half after his ordeal, Croy made an emotional visit to the Bath Township Fire Department, where Plumpe works as a platoon chief, to thank her for saving his life.

“In the fire and EMS profession, we rarely get to meet those that we impact in a positive way, after the fact,” said Plumpe. “The few times that we do, we treasure. To see Don face to face and hear him say that I saved his life was pretty amazing.”

Months later, Croy still thinks about his brush with death and how fortunate he is to be alive.

“It really hits me when I see my sons and my grandkids,” he explained. “I’ve always appreciated my life, but I appreciate it more now. I’ve always looked at the roses, but now I take the time to smell them, too.”

Related resources
Warning Signs of a Heart Attack (American Heart Association)
– More info about Ohio safety councils

BWC secures 14 fraud-related convictions in October

Fraudsters owe BWC more than $283,000 in restitution

The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) secured 14 fraud-related convictions in October, with those convicted owing BWC a combined $283,146 in restitution.

Those convicted include injured workers found working while collecting disability benefits, family members collecting their deceased parent’s compensation benefits, and business owners whose coverage had lapsed.

“When people cheat BWC or fail to cover their own employees, they are cheating the injured workers who really need our help and the employers in our system that follow the law,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud.

In order of most recent court appearance, those convicted in October include:

Bruce Starkey of Cincinnati, Ohio
Starkey pleaded guilty Oct. 17 and was sentenced in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Nov. 4 on one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a fifth-degree felony. Starkey received 100 hours of community service and was required to pay BWC full restitution for the $1,459 in permanent total disability benefits he took from his mother’s bank account after she passed. He failed to inform BWC of her passing and wrote 15 checks, forging his mother’s signature.

Cecil Piner of Xenia, Ohio
Piner pleaded guilty Oct. 31 in Franklin County Common Pleas Court on one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a fifth-degree felony, after BWC found him driving a school bus while receiving $17,901 in disability benefits. He was sentenced to five years’ probation in lieu of 12 months in jail and ordered to pay court costs and full restitution.

Kyle Foreman of New Carlisle, Ohio
Foreman pleaded guilty Oct. 30 in Clark County Municipal Court on two counts of failure to comply, both second-degree misdemeanors. His coverage for Kyle S. Foreman Enterprises had lapsed since November 2017, and he failed to pay the premiums before taking his company into bankruptcy. He was ordered to pay a $100 fine and court costs for each count.

Michelle Smith of Cincinnati, Ohio
Smith, 57, pleaded guilty Oct. 23 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a fifth-degree felony, after BWC discovered she owned and ran two businesses, Expression Unique LLC and Later in Life Brides, while collecting BWC benefits for workers deemed permanently and totally disabled. A Franklin County judge ordered Smith to pay BWC $40,873 dollars in restitution and serve five years of non-reporting community control (probation). If she violates her probation, she must serve a year in prison.

Louis Tombazzi of Cleveland, Ohio
BWC found Tombazzi owed the agency approximately $75,000 in premiums after letting the policy lapse for his business, Garda Architectural Fabrication. He pleaded guilty Oct. 16 in Cleveland Municipal Court to one count of failure to comply, a second-degree misdemeanor, and was ordered to serve 90 days in jail (suspended), pay a $400 fine, and serve two years’ probation. He also was ordered to report monthly to the court his effort to reduce or pay off his BWC obligation.

Natalia Daniels of Concord Township, Ohio
Daniels pleaded guilty Oct. 16 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor, after receiving $3,600 in BWC disability benefits while working as a bus driver for a senior living facility and as a laborer for an insurance company. A judge ordered her to pay full restitution to BWC and serve 18 months of probation in lieu of a 180-day jail sentence.

Vicki Aloisio of West Chester, Ohio
Aloisio was convicted Oct. 11 on two counts of failure to comply, both second-degree midemeanors, for failing to carry BWC coverage on her business, Richard Aloisio Trucking Inc., despite numerous BWC attempts to assist her. Aloisio owes $28,000 in past-due premiums and penalties. Sentencing in a Butler County courtroom is scheduled for Dec. 6.

Ahmad Al-thamra of Akron, Ohio
Al-thamra pleaded guilty Oct. 10 in Akron Municipal Court to two counts of failure to comply, both second-degree misdemeanors, for failing to maintain workers’ compensation coverage on his business, The Family Corner Store. He was ordered to pay $300 in fines and ordered to pay court costs and obey all laws for one year.

Jason Gaschler of Cheswick, Pennsylvania
Gaschler pleaded guilty Oct. 10 of one count of theft, a first-degree misdemeanor, for operating a construction company, General License Contracting, in Pennsylvania while receiving $6,864 in BWC benefits. He was sentenced to one day in jail (time served) and made full restitution at the time of his hearing.

Jason Rissner of Rockford, Ohio
Rissner pleaded guilty Oct. 9 in Mercer County Common Pleas Court to one count of petty theft, a first-degree misdemeanor, after he was caught operating his own construction company while receiving $35,261 in temporary total disability benefits from his employer, O’Reilly Auto Parts. He was ordered to spend 180 days in jail, which would be suspended if he committed no more crimes within a year and pay full restitution to O’Reilly.

Brian Franklin of Sharonville, Ohio
Franklin avoided conviction on one charge of workers’ compensation fraud, a fifth-degree felony, after he agreed Oct. 8 in Franklin County to pay BWC $18,081 in restitution. BWC found Franklin working at a community center in 2018 while collecting BWC benefits.

Marshann Kinman of Cedar Grove, Ohio
Kinman pleaded guilty Oct. 8 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a fifth-degree felony, in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court. Kinman failed to let BWC know her mother had passed so she could take $6,321 in BWC widow death benefits intended for her mother. Kinman received two years of community service and was ordered to pay BWC full restitution.

Charles Ayler of Cincinnati, Ohio
Ayler pleaded guilty Oct. 3 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor, after BWC found him working while receiving BWC benefits. He was sentenced to 180 days in jail, which was suspended for two years of community service, the promise to avoid similar offenses, and to pay BWC full restitution of $6,090 and court costs of $150 by Dec. 31, 2020.

Ronald J. Dorfeld of Brunswick, Ohio
Dorfeld must pay BWC $78,957 in restitution after pleading guilty to a fifth-degree felony charge of workers’ compensation fraud Oct. 1 in a Franklin County courtroom. BWC found Dorfield operating his own business, Xtreme Multimedia Marketing, while receiving disability compensation. A Franklin County judge sentenced Dorfeld to ninth months in jail, which was suspended for five years’ probation and full restitution.

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

Happy Anniversary to Us!

On Nov. 14, 2019, our BWC Special Investigations Department celebrated the second anniversary of its Fraud Hotline system.

We launched this system during Fraud Awareness Week 2017 as an important new customer service tool for external sources to report their suspicions of workers’ compensation fraud. What a successful launch and two years it has been!

We’ve received more than 3,300 calls since then, an average of nearly seven each work day!

If you suspect workers’ compensation fraud in Ohio, call us on it.

We look forward to hearing from you. Give us a call at 1-800-644-6292. We will conduct an investigation and determine the facts. Together, we are successfully combatting workers’ compensation fraud in Ohio – one most important call at a time.

Today, during International Fraud Awareness Week 2019, we thank you for your support!

Fraud of the Day during Fraud Awareness Week

By Jeff Baker, BWC Special Investigations Department

When the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) created its Special Investigations Department (SID) in 1993, investigative professionals in the new department knew they would need to do more than detect, identify and investigate suspected workers’ compensation fraud. To fully meet the department’s mandate and mission, SID professionals would need to also deter fraud.

We felt one of the most effective ways to deter fraud might be to raise public awareness of what we do by reaching out to the media about our latest cases. In the years since, SID has collaborated with BWC’s Communications Department to issue news releases on many of the nearly 3,000 subjects convicted and sentenced as a result of our work.

To reach an even wider audience, we created our first social media accounts in 2011 and launched our Fraud Awareness Series via ohiobwcfraud and
twitter.com/ohiobwcfraud. Through our YouTube channel, we added videos showing undercover surveillance footage of subjects caught in act of committing their crimes.

The success of our Fraud Awareness Series can be measured by its reach beyond our initial audience. That is why we take note (ok, we admit we are thrilled) whenever one of our prosecution news releases is shared or re-Tweeted by a follower. Since 2014, we have seen this occur 39 times from just one follower — Larry Benson.

Larry has used our news releases as the basis for 39 of his Fraud of the Day blogs published by LexisNexis. Larry sees news releases for countless other successful fraud investigations by government agencies within hundreds of jurisdictions (local, state, and federal), so we are always delighted when he takes note of ours. We also appreciate his Fraud of the day website permits users to select their favorite examples by fraud type and state. For example, here is a filtered link to the Fraud of the Day articles for Ohio, including the 39 (and counting) articles pertaining to BWC.

Conveniently, E-mail subscribers to Fraud of the Day blogs may “get their fraud fix” by “waking up five days a week to the most current fraud article delivered straight to their inbox.”

But no matter how you access the Fraud of the Day blogs, you will note Larry’s clever use of headlines and tags referencing the subject’s type of fraud. A few of our favorites include:

Of course, as humorous as these titles may be, we know that no fraud is a matter for laughter. We certainly take all crime seriously. That is why we have dedicated our careers to detecting, identifying, investigating, prosecuting, and deterring fraud. Like Larry, we, too, are willing to deploy clever or funny headlines in news releases, but that’s only to increase the likelihood that the media and general public will take note and read and heed the releases as the cautionary tales they are.

Widening our reach, getting our word out, deters fraud. In the spirit of International Fraud Awareness Week, we invite all of you to join us in combatting crime by continuing to follow this blog and Larry’s Fraud of the Day series this week and beyond.

A letter from Jim Wernecke – Director of BWC Special Investigations

As Director of the BWC Special Investigations Department (SID), I am honored to kick off Fraud Awareness Week. I invite you to view my video message, “Fraud Hurts Us All.

In the video I discuss how workers’ compensation fraud increases premiums for employers, which reduces the money employers can invest in their employees, community and future growth. I explain how BWC employees are improving workplace health and safety, getting injured workers back to work, and keeping premium rates low for employers. I describe how SID employees protect the State Insurance Fund by detecting, investigating, and deterring fraud.

Lastly, I invite viewers to report, via an online form, suspected workers’ compensation fraud.

I also invite you to check back daily as we share success stories in our efforts to combat workers’ comp. fraud. Some stories we will highlight are:

We would not have achieved these successes without the dedicated staff members who serve our department with great skill, resourcefulness, and determination to bring justice to those who cheat our system. Their efforts create safer workplaces and ensure those who attempt to commit fraud in workers’ compensation are held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. Since our inception in 1993, we have identified over $1.9 billion in savings, as well as:

  • Completed over 69,000 investigations
  • Referred 5,420 subjects for prosecution
  • Secured 2,941 criminal convictions

We are honored and eager to join our fraud-fighting colleagues around the country and abroad each November to participate in International Fraud Awareness Week.

The campaign, which runs through Saturday, was established by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners to highlight the issue of fraud and minimize its impacts.

Most weeks, you’ll find us sharing our fraud news on #FraudFriday. But this week, we’ll have a new fraud feature each day! So keep an eye here on our blog and on our Facebook and Twitter pages!

Happy Fraud Awareness Week!