BWC board reduces rates for Ohio’s private employers

Employers will pay $132 million less in premiums next year

Ohio’s private employers will pay nearly $132 million less in premiums to the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation next fiscal year under a 13% rate reduction the agency’s Board of Directors approved last week.

The reduction marks BWC’s third largest rate cut in 60 years and follows the agency’s largest rate reduction (20%) that the board approved last year.

“The employers and employees we cover in our system continue to experience fewer and less costly claims, so we’re happy to pass these savings along to our employer community,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud. “It’s our hope employers will use these savings to invest in the safety and wellness of their workplaces.”

The rate reduction becomes effective July 1, the start of state fiscal year 2021. It will save private employers $131.6 million over this year’s premiums. It also follows a 10% rate reduction for public employers — counties, cities, schools and others — that went into effect Jan. 1. Overall, the average rate levels for the 249,000 private and public Ohio employers in the BWC system are at their lowest in at least 40 years.

Premiums paid to BWC not only cover health care and lost wages for injured workers, they also support BWC’s Safety & Hygiene Division, which offers training, consultations and other services to help employers improve workplace safety. Employer participation in these services has grown by more than 70% since 2010. Total annual claims, meanwhile, have fallen 19% over that time to 84,364 in 2019.

The 13% rate cut represents an average statewide change to premiums and does not include costs related to the administrative cost fund or other funds BWC administers. The actual premium paid by individual private employers depends on several factors, including the expected future claims costs in their industry, their company’s recent claims history, and their participation in various BWC programs.

A history of BWC rate changes since 2000 can be found online by clicking this link.

Former deputy sheriff owes BWC $235K for workers’ comp fraud

Zanesville man earns felon status after Monday’s conviction

A Zanesville man and former county deputy sheriff must reimburse the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation nearly $235,000 in restitution following his felony conviction for workers’ compensation fraud Monday in a Franklin County courtroom.

A judge ordered Gregory A. Fitzer, 56, to pay BWC $211,536 in restitution and $23,187 in investigative costs after Fitzer pleaded guilty to a fourth-degree felony charge of workers’ compensation fraud. She also ordered the former Muskingum County deputy sheriff to serve four years of probation in lieu of a year in jail.

“Our investigators found Mr. Fitzer knowingly and with fraudulent intent deceived our agency and his physicians in order to receive disability benefits,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud.

Acting on a tip, BWC’s Special Investigations Department discovered Fitzer worked as a process server and investigator for several law firms in and around Zanesville from January 2007 to March 2016 while collecting disability benefits from BWC. The investigation, which included surveillance, multiple interviews and a review of bank and employment records, also found he worked as a truck driver and laborer for a local retailer.

In other fraud news:

BWC secured eight fraud-related convictions in August, bringing 2019’s total to 63. They include a Central Ohio nurse practitioner convicted on health care fraud charges.

BWC assisted in the investigation that led to the Aug. 30 sentencing of nurse practitioner Amy Wood-Kirk of Grove City and fiancé Ryan Edney on one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. Amy Wood-Kirk prescribed large quantities of medications, including prescriptions for compounded pain cremes, outside acceptable medical standards for the personal profit of herself and Edney.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio sentenced Wood-Kirk to five years of probation and ordered her and Edney to repay Medicaid, TriCare, and Medical Mutual of Ohio $751,809 in restitution. Wood-Kirk was also sentenced to 180 days home confinement.

In order of most recent court appearance, other August convictions include:

Jim Hesler, dba Robert’s Roofing, Batavia, Ohio
Hesler was found guilty Aug. 23 in Clermont County Common Pleas Court on two counts of workers’ compensation fraud, both fifth-degree felonies. BWC investigated Hessler after learning he had not been reporting his payroll to the agency and several injury claims had been filed.

Investigators found his business was still in operation. Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 8, at which time a judge may determine the amount of restitution owed BWC.

Eric Johnson, Akron, Ohio
Johnson pleaded guilty Aug. 22 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor, after BWC found him working while receiving disability benefits. Prior to entering the plea, Johnson deposited full restitution of $1,062 at the clerk of court’s office.

Gregory White, dba White’s Auto Care LLC, Lorain, Ohio
White pleaded no contest Aug. 22 to one count of failure to comply, a second-degree misdemeanor, for not reinstating his BWC policy while operating his business. A second count was dismissed as White had brought his BWC account current prior to court. White was ordered to pay court costs of $167.

Everett Ferryman, Marysville, Ohio
Ferryman pleaded guilty Aug. 21 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a fifth-degree felony, after BWC discovered him working as a truck driver and receiving cash “under the table” while receiving BWC disability benefits. The court sentenced him to a term of probation not to exceed five years but could terminate sooner upon payment of $22,851 in restitution. The court also imposed a suspended sentence of 12 months in prison.

Tammy Hill, Jackson, Ohio
Hill pleaded guilty Aug. 12 in Jackson County Municipal Court to theft by deception, a first-degree misdemeanor, after BWC found her cashing BWC benefit checks belonging to an injured worker. A judge ordered Hill to serve up to five years of probation, complete 500 hours of community service, 180 days in jail (suspended), and pay a $100 fine and court costs within 12 months.

Paul Gall, dba Sun Masters, Brooklyn Heights, Ohio
BWC found Gall had been operating his business, Sun Masters LLC, without BWC coverage since March 2014. In lieu of conviction, Gall entered a payment plan with the Ohio Attorney General’s office after making a down payment of $12,000 toward his $44,000 balance.

Robert McWhorter, New Albany, Ohio
McWhorter pleaded guilty Aug. 7 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a fifth-degree felony, after BWC found him working for his landscaping company while receiving BWC disability benefits. A judge ordered McWhorter to pay $9,888 in restitution to BWC and serve one year of probation in lieu of a 6-month jail sentence.

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

Logan County man sentenced for workers’ comp fraud

On the day he was sentenced to prison for breaking and entering, gross sexual imposition, burglary and other charges, a Bellefontaine man was also ordered to pay nearly $6,400 in restitution to his employer and the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) for collecting disability benefits while secretly working another job.

Joseph A. Wilson, 32, was sentenced to six years in prison March 8 on multiple charges, including reduced charges related to workers’ compensation fraud — petty theft, a first-degree misdemeanor, and failure to appear in court, a fourth-degree felony. A judge in the Logan County Court of Common Pleas ordered Wilson to reimburse his employer (Rent-A-Center) $2,904 and pay BWC $3,469 for the cost of its investigation.

“Workers’ compensation fraud is a crime we take seriously,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud. “Fraud steals resources needed by workers who are truly injured, and it raises the cost of our entire system. Kudos to our special investigations department for bringing this case to a close.”

BWC investigators confirmed an anonymous tip they received in late 2017 that Wilson was working on a horse farm while collecting disability benefits from Rent-A-Center. Wilson was arrested in November on warrants for five counts of gross sexual imposition, two counts of workers’ compensation fraud, two counts of failure to appear, and single counts of receiving stolen property, theft, breaking and entering and criminal damaging.

In other news:

The owner of Home Bakery in Coldwater, Ohio, pleaded guilty March 8 to three counts of failure to comply after BWC discovered him operating his business without a workers’ comp policy for three years. A Celina judge ordered Carl R. Brunswick to pay a $50 fine for each count and serve 10 days in jail for each count. The judge suspended the jail time on the condition Brunswick not have any similar violations in the next five years. Brunswick is on a repayment plan with the state to pay his past BWC premiums.

A Dayton woman convicted last month of passing a bad check to BWC must serve five years of probation and complete 40 hours of community service. Carissa Couch of Couch Family Construction pleaded guilty to the fifth-degree felony on Feb. 27 in the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas. The plea followed multiple attempts by BWC to work with Couch to bring her policy into compliance after her check to the agency for $3,333 bounced at the bank.

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

Prison, hefty restitution ordered for Cleveland fraudster

Contractor collected $246K in disability from BWC, Social Security

A Cleveland-area man was sentenced to seven months in prison Wednesday and ordered to repay nearly $246,000 in disability benefits he fraudulently received from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) and the Social Security Administration.

Louis C. Cooper, 57, of North Royalton, previously pleaded guilty to wire fraud and theft of government property after investigators discovered him concealing his work as a general contractor. He was sentenced Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio in Cleveland.

“Acting on an anonymous tip, our investigators discovered Mr. Cooper earned at least $185,000 over the last eight years as a general contractor while telling BWC and Social Security he was too injured to work,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud. “Our benefits are for workers who truly need them, not for fraudsters to pad their income. I commend our special investigations department and the Social Security Administration for bringing Mr. Cooper’s criminal activity to an end.”

Cooper was injured on the job in 1996. Investigators from BWC and Social Security found he had developed a scheme dating back to at least 2010 to conceal his income as a general contractor by asking his clients to not pay him directly. While reporting to both agencies numerous times that he was too injured to work, Cooper collected nearly $168,000 from BWC and nearly $78,000 from Social Security.

According to court documents, Cooper must surrender to the U.S. Marshals Service on April 18 for transfer to a federal prison. He must serve three years of probation following his release. This case was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio.

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

Receptionist owes BWC $19K after fraud conviction

Agency secures six convictions in January

A Bellefontaine woman who worked as a receptionist while claiming to be disabled from work owes the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation nearly $19,000 following her conviction last month on a felony workers’ compensation fraud charge.

A Franklin County judge on Jan. 16 ordered Dawn M. Hattery, 50, to reimburse BWC $17,937 and pay $1,000 in investigation costs for working while collecting BWC benefits from January to November 2017. The judge also sentenced her to five years of probation after she pleaded guilty to the fifth-degree felony.

“Ms. Hattery not only broke the law deceiving this agency, she earned a criminal record that will follow her for years to come,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud. “Our role is to compensate workers while they’re recovering from injury, not pad the income of people trying to cheat the system.”

In other convictions last month:

  • Marc E. Pope, 50, of Cleveland, paid BWC $23,793 in restitution Jan. 30 before his guilty plea on two first-degree misdemeanor counts of workers’ compensation fraud in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas. BWC found Pope working multiple jobs while collecting disability benefits from the agency.
  • Kenneth Miller, owner of Grant Street Pallet Inc. in Lisbon, Ohio, pleaded no contest Jan. 29 to a second-degree misdemeanor count of failure to comply after entering a reinstatement payment plan with BWC. A judge sentenced Miller to 10 days in jail and fined him $750, then suspended both.
  • Larry West, owner of the Bluebird Restaurant in Norwood, paid all past-due installments and premiums on his BWC policy before pleading guilty Jan. 25 to a reduced charge of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor. He was sentenced to one day in jail, then credited with time served.
  • Douglas J. Krouskoupf of Zanesville pleaded guilty Jan. 9 to a first-degree misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas. A judge sentenced Krouskoupf to 180 days in jail, which he suspended on the condition Krouskoupf pay BWC $7,924 in restitution.
  • Stephan L. Evans Sr, dba AB Shelby’s Auto Tractor and Trailer Repair in Akron, pleaded guilty Jan. 7 to one count of failure to comply, a second-degree misdemeanor, after BWC found him operating his business without workers’ compensation coverage. An Akron Municipal Court judge sentenced Evans to one year of obeying the law and ordered him to pay $324 in court costs.

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

Construction worker hammered with fraud conviction

Cleveland man reimburses BWC $24,000

A Cleveland construction worker who worked multiple jobs while collecting disability benefits from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation reimbursed the agency nearly $24,000 on Jan. 30 before pleading guilty to workers’ compensation fraud.

Marc. E. Pope, 50, paid BWC $23,793 in restitution before his guilty plea on two first-degree misdemeanor counts of workers’ compensation fraud in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas.

“We found Mr. Pope working as a laborer for several businesses while claiming to be disabled from work,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud. “When someone scams the system, they are really hurting injured workers who rely on us to help them recover from their injury and return to work.”

In other fraud-related news:

A Cincinnati-area restaurant owner who would not cooperate with BWC to reinstate his policy finally did so after a Hamilton County grand jury indicted him on a fourth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud.

Larry West, owner of the Bluebird Restaurant in Norwood, paid all past-due installments and premiums on his BWC policy before pleading guilty Jan. 25 to a reduced charge of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor. He was sentenced to one day in jail, then credited with time served.

The owner of a pallet company in eastern Ohio was sentenced to two years of probation Jan. 29 for failing to carry workers’ compensation insurance on his business.

Kenneth Miller, owner of Grant Street Pallet Inc. in Lisbon, Ohio, pleaded no contest to a second-degree misdemeanor count of failure to comply after entering a reinstatement payment plan with BWC. A judge sentenced Miller to 10 days in jail and fined him $750, then suspended both.

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

Trucker kept truckin’ while collecting injured-worker benefits

Zanesville man convicted of workers’ comp fraud

A Zanesville truck driver must pay nearly $8,000 in restitution to the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) after agency investigators found him working for a living while collecting BWC disability benefits.

Douglas J. Krouskoupf, 53, pleaded guilty Jan. 9 to a first-degree misdemeanor count of workers’ compensation fraud in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas. A judge sentenced Krouskoupf to 180 days in jail, which he suspended on the condition Krouskoupf pay BWC $7,924 in restitution.

“We found Mr. Krouskoupf working for his brother’s sandblasting business on multiple occasions and that he was also driving a semi-truck while collecting BWC benefits,” said Jim Wernecke, director of BWC’s special investigations department. “Our benefits are for people who suffer a workplace injury and can’t do their job. Mr. Krouskoupf clearly doesn’t fit into that category.”

In other news, BWC netted seven fraud or fraud-related convictions in December, bringing calendar year 2018’s total to 94. In order of most recent case, December convictions include:

Jason Dudas, Mentor, Ohio
Dudas pleaded guilty Dec. 13 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor, after BWC found him working as a handyman while receiving BWC benefits. A judge ordered Dudas to pay $5,073 in restitution and serve three years of non-reporting probation.

Gabriel Seda, Grafton, Ohio
Seda pleaded guilty Dec. 6 through a Bill of Information to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud after BWC found him working as a landscaper while receiving BWC benefits. A Franklin County judge ordered Seda to reimburse BWC $33,960 and sentenced him to five years of probation in lieu of a year in prison.

John House, Chris Kraft and Lynn Howard, dba Old Crow Bar, Middletown, Ohio
House, Kraft and Howard, owners of the Old Crow Bar, each pleaded guilty Dec. 3 to disorderly conduct, a fourth-degree misdemeanor, after BWC discovered they weren’t carrying workers’ compensation coverage on their business. A judge sentenced House to 10 days in jail (suspended) and fined him $200 and $90 in court costs. Kraft and Howard were both sentenced to one day in jail (suspended) and fined $100 and $90 in court costs.

Brian Lang, dba Outdoor Inspirations, Holland, Ohio
Lang pleaded guilty to a third-degree misdemeanor charge of attempted failure to comply with the law Dec. 3 after BWC discovered him running a business without workers’ compensation coverage to protect his employees. A judge scheduled sentencing for Jan. 28 after Lang paid $5,304 toward the balance he owes BWC.

Beth Turner, dba Flashions Ltd, Springfield, Ohio
Turner pleaded guilty Dec. 3 to failure to comply, a minor misdemeanor, after BWC found her operating her business without workers’ compensation coverage. Turner was fined $100 and court costs.

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

Cleveland-area businessman convicted of workers’ comp fraud

‘Disabled’ man plows snow, mows lawns

A northeast Ohio business owner must pay the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) nearly $34,000 in restitution after the agency found him working and running a business while collecting disability benefits.

Gabriel Seda of Grafton, Ohio, pleaded guilty Dec. 6 through a Bill of Information to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud. A judge in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas ordered Seda to reimburse BWC $33,960 and sentenced him to five years of probation in lieu of a year in prison.

“Our investigation found Mr. Seda plowing snow, mowing lawns and landscaping for a business he owned, GS Snow Removal and Lawn Care,” said Jim Wernecke, director of BWC’s special investigations department. “Clearly, he wasn’t so disabled that he couldn’t work.”

In other news, the owner of a graphic design and screen-printing shop in Springfield who failed to turn herself in to the court earlier this year pleaded guilty to “failure to comply” Dec. 3 after BWC’s fugitive task force tracked her down in November.

A judge fined Beth Turner, owner of Flashions LTD in Springfield, $100 and court costs for the minor misdemeanor charge. Turner’s conviction followed a BWC investigation that found her running her business with employees under lapsed BWC coverage. She was charged in May after she stopped cooperating with BWC to bring her policy back into compliance. She has since done so.

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

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.