Real estate agent owes BWC over $151K after fraud conviction

A Columbus-area real estate agent and broker pleaded guilty to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a felony of the fourth degree.

David L. Garner, 66, worked from 2009 through 2018 as both a real estate agent selling homes, and as a real estate broker providing broker price opinions while receiving the Bureau of Workers Compensation (BWC) disability benefits. Evidence obtained during the investigation revealed Garner intentionally misrepresented and withheld this activity from BWC to collect disability benefits he otherwise would not have been entitled to.

On June 6, a Franklin County judge found Garner guilty and proceeded to sentencing. The judge placed Garner on community control for 3 years and ordered him to pay BWC $151,705.15. If Garner violates the terms of his community control, he is subject to a suspended sentence of 18 months in prison.

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

Ohio trucker, others convicted of workers’ comp fraud

Marysville man kept truckin’ while collecting disability benefits

A Marysville truck driver was convicted of workers’ compensation fraud Wednesday after the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation discovered he continued to work while collecting BWC benefits for a workplace injury he suffered more than a decade ago.

Everett Ferryman, 46, pleaded guilty in a Franklin County courtroom to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud. The judge ordered Ferryman to pay BWC $22,851 in restitution and serve probation for five years or until restitution was paid, whichever came first. She also imposed a suspended sentence of a year in prison.

“The law is clear — our benefits are for workers who are truly injured,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud. “They’re not a support system for people trying to cheat BWC and Ohio employers.”

Acting on a tip in 2017, BWC’s Special Investigations Department found Ferryman working as a truck driver while collecting BWC benefits from at least March 27, 2017, to Oct. 31, 2017. He was injured as a truck driver in May 2008 and had received temporary disability benefits from BWC periodically since then.

In other news
The owner of a Central Ohio landscaping company was ordered to pay BWC $9,888 in restitution Aug. 7 after investigators found he continued to work for his company while collecting BWC benefits for nearly a year and a half.

Robert J. McWhorter of New Albany pleaded guilty to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud in a Franklin County courtroom. A judge sentenced McWhorter to one year of probation in lieu of six months in jail. He has paid his restitution in full.

Also in recent news, BWC’s Special Investigations Department secured five fraud-related convictions in July, bringing total convictions for calendar year 2019 to 54. Those convicted include:

James Coon of Akron, dba James Coon Construction
Coon pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter July 24 after one of his workers fell to his death in late 2017. He also pleaded guilty to a fourth-degree felony charge of workers’ compensation fraud.

BWC found Coon lacked workers’ comp coverage when his employee died and that he repeatedly lied about his business over the years to minimize his premiums or avoid paying them altogether. Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 6.

Jacci Richards of Toledo/dba Acorns to Oaks
Richards pleaded no contest but was found guilty July 16 to a second-degree misdemeanor charge of failure to comply after BWC found her operating a now-closed day care center without workers’ compensation coverage. A judge ordered her to pay $99 in court costs.

R. Gregory Lawrence of Euclid, dba Lakeshore Coffee House Inc.
BWC found Lawrence was operating Lakeshore Coffee House Inc. with lapsed BWC coverage. Lawrence pleaded guilty July 11 in Euclid Municipal Court to two counts of disorderly conduct, both minor misdemeanors. Lawrence was fined $200. Prior to the court date, Lawrence paid the balance he owed BWC and brought his policy into compliance.

Scott Laird of Cambridge
Laird pleaded guilty July 10 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor, after BWC found him working while collecting BWC benefits. A judge ordered Laird to pay BWC $3,113 in restitution and sentenced him to two years of probation in lieu of 90 days in jail.

Cynthia Gribble of New Philadelphia
Gribble pleaded guilty July 1 to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor, after BWC found her working as a home health care aide while collecting BWC benefits. A judge ordered her to pay BWC $7,328 in restitution and serve six months of probation in lieu of 90 days in jail.

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

Wayne County realtor pleads guilty to workers’ comp and social security fraud

James Miller of West Salem (Wayne County) recently pleaded guilty to workers’ compensation and social security fraud and has been ordered to repay more than $30,000.

BWC’s Special Investigations Department began investigating Miller after receiving an allegation that he was working as a realtor while receiving living maintenance wage loss statements. This benefit is available to an injured worker who has completed a rehabilitation plan but continues to have physical restrictions and experiences a wage loss upon return to work.

Internet research showed Miller had listings and recent sales with Howard Hanna and employment and bank records revealed he had received numerous paychecks from the company. However, he had been submitting paperwork to BWC showing he had no earnings.

Miller admitted to earning the money as a realtor but claimed that his expenses as a realtor were so great that he earned $0.  However, as part of his benefits, BWC had paid for these expenses previously and were not out-of-pocket expenses to Miller. Additionally, it was discovered that Miller was receiving monthly benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA).

Miller entered a guilty plea to two felony counts of theft and two felony counts of tampering with records in an Ashland County courtroom. The plea represents two counts for BWC and two for SSA.

The judge sentenced Miller to 150 days of house arrest with GPS monitoring for each count, which will run concurrently. Additionally, Miller will serve four years of probation supervision and 250 hours of community service.  Conditions of community control include the payment of restitution to BWC in the amount of $11,081.68 and $20,878.79 to the SSA. Miller was also ordered to pay a fine of $ 1,000.

He will face 18 months of prison time if he fails to abide by the sanctions imposed by the court.

BWC SID: Our Journey to Excellence – Part 1 of 3

0005 -- Administrator Buehrer -- Introductory Remarks -- IMG_2876In our constant quest for improvement, all members of the Bureau of Workers’
Compensation Special Investigations Department (SID) gathered on October 22, 2015 at our Mansfield service office to successfully complete annual in-service training. The theme of this year’s training event was “Our Journey to Excellence: Past, Present and Future.”

BWC Administrator/CEO Steve Buehrer welcomed the 125 attendees and opened the meeting. In his opening remarks, Administrator Buehrer praised the department’s more than 20 years of success, noting that throughout its history SID has generated more than $7 in savings for every budgetary dollar expended. He cited other SID performance results, lauding SID for having annually identified more than $55 million in savings to the State Insurance Fund during each of the last five consecutive years.

“Investigating fraud is a vital part of the workers’ compensation business,” Administrator Buehrer said. “Identifying fraud puts dollars back into the State Insurance Fund and supports our efforts to keep premiums as low as possible.”

SID Mtg 2015

Pictured left to right: James Wernecke, Jennifer Saunders, Tamela Dixon, Sarah Morrison and Steve Buehrer.

Following these remarks, Administrator Buehrer, Chief Legal Officer Sarah Morrison, SID Director James Wernecke and SID Assistant Director Jennifer Saunders presented service pins to 14 SID employees. These recipients included seven employees with 20 years of service and one, Assistant Special Agent in Charge Tamela Dixon, with 25 years of service to the State of Ohio.

Subsequently, SID Director James Wernecke thanked Administrator Buehrer for his executive leadership, ongoing support for SID’s mission, and presence at the annual event. All of members of the Special Investigations Department joined Director Wernecke in thanking Administrator Buehrer for inspiring us to realize our departmental mission to deter, detect, investigate and prosecute workers’ compensation fraud.

In the coming two weeks, we will offer more details from October 22 training event. Stay tuned for part two of the series, which acknowledges specialized training we received at the event.

In the meantime, you can read the past posts about our SID Director here and our most recent annual report here.

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