For immediate release: April 17, 2014
BWC investigations result in seven workers' comp fraud convictions in March
Columbus - Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) Administrator/CEO Steve Buehrer today announced that seven individuals
were convicted of, or pleaded guilty to, charges related to defrauding Ohio's workers' compensation system in March 2014.
The court actions are the result of investigations conducted by BWC's Special Investigations Department (SID). The department
works to deter, detect, investigate and prosecute workers' compensation fraud.
"Our agents conduct surveillance and perform investigations as part of our ongoing efforts to put an end to fraudulent
activity," Buehrer said. "We also actively discuss workers' compensation fraud to shed light on the issue and make potential
fraudsters think twice before they attempt to steal from the State Insurance Fund."
The following case information represents a sampling of cases that resulted in guilty pleas or convictions during March.
Regina Whitman (Mentor, Lake County) pleaded guilty March 19 to one count of workers' compensation fraud, a
first-degree misdemeanor, in connection with falsified wages. The Northeast Special Investigations Unit (SIU) received an
allegation that she and her husband, Russell Whitman, had been arrested and charged with felony theft and were suspected
of embezzling a large amount of money from the family business. Russell Whitman was receiving BWC benefits. The SIU found
that Regina Whitman, the payroll manager for the family business, submitted false payroll records to BWC on behalf of her
husband. While in jail in 2011 for the embezzlement charges, the couple conspired to conceal his incarceration from the
BWC and to submit false documents to the BWC, so he would continue to receive benefits. Investigators reviewed telephone
conversations between Russell and Regina while they were incarcerated and identified their conspiracy to commit fraud
against BWC. As a result of this scheme, BWC overpaid Russell $3,287.47 in benefits. Regina Whitman was sentenced to
six months of incarceration to run concurrent with her four-year sentence related to her part in the embezzlement of
more than $285,000 from her family business.
Joseph Stapleton (Dayton, Montgomery County) pleaded guilty March 19 to falsification, a first-degree misdemeanor. In
September 2013, Stapleton filed a claim, alleging he was assaulted by a hotel patron while working. A police report was obtained
by SID indicating Stapleton was not involved in the incident with the patron and was not injured at work. Agents interviewed
witnesses and confirmed that Stapleton was never involved in the altercation, and had no contact with the patron. Stapleton
has been referred to the probation department and sentencing is scheduled for May 6.
David Becker (Germantown, Montgomery County) pleaded guilty March 24 to workersâ€™ compensation fraud, a first-degree
misdemeanor, for working while receiving workplace injury benefits. SID received an allegation that Becker was operating a
business from his home. Investigators found that Becker was operating an online tractor supply business from his home between
October 2005 and June 2007 while collecting temporary total disability. During court, Becker paid $45,582.54 in restitution
and investigative costs.
Dale Richards (Grove City, Franklin County) pleaded guilty March 12 to workers' compensation fraud, a fifth-degree felony,
for working while receiving workplace injury benefits. The Columbus SIU received an allegation that Richards was working
while receiving BWC benefits. The investigation revealed that Richards was involved in construction and remodeling projects
as well as selling scrap metal. Richards was ordered to pay $30,381.48 in restitution to the BWC. He was also sentenced to
serve eight months at the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, which was suspended for three years of community
control, as long as he doesn't violate probation rules and pays restitution.
Christopher Steele (Reynoldsburg, Licking County) pleaded guilty March 5 to workers' compensation fraud, a first-degree
misdemeanor. The Columbus SIU received an allegation that Steele was working while receiving BWC benefits. Steele was receiving
both Living Maintenance (LM) and Working Wage Loss (WWL) benefits. Injured workers receiving LM are prohibited from working,
while those receiving WWL are permitted to work, but must report earnings to determine benefit levels. The SIU obtained
employment and payroll records, and confirmed that Steele worked as a carpenter and construction worker while receiving
the LM compensation, and he didn't report any earnings, resulting in a higher level of WWL benefits than he was entitled
to receive. He was ordered to pay $7,680.54 in restitution by March 31, 2016. He was given 60 days in jail, which was
suspended on the condition that he pay restitution in full. If he fails to do so, he will serve 60 days in the Franklin
County Jail. All fines were waived and Steele was ordered to pay court costs. He made a $2,500 restitution payment after
To report suspected workers' compensation fraud, call 1-800-644-6292 or visit bwc.ohio.gov. Check out our latest cases
on our fraud blog, ohiobwcfraud.wordpress.com, follow Fraud Fridays on Twitter @OhioBWCFraud, or join in the conversation at
www.facebook.com/ohiobwcfraud. View and share BWC's workers'
comp fraud awareness video on our YouTube channel.
Follow BWC on Twitter.
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