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For immediate release: May 15, 2015
BWC investigations result in nine workers' comp fraud convictions in April
Columbus - Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) Administrator/CEO Steve Buehrer announced today that nine individuals were convicted of, or pleaded guilty to, charges related to defrauding Ohio's workers' compensation system in April 2015. These court actions are the result of investigations conducted by BWC's Special Investigations Department (SID).
"Our Special Investigations Department evaluates all allegations of suspected workers' compensation fraud, whether it's committed by a claimant, an employer or a medical provider," Buehrer said. "These efforts to detect and to stop workers' compensation fraud protect the State Insurance Fund, which provides care for Ohioans injured on the job."
The following is a sampling of cases that resulted in guilty pleas or convictions during April:
Gregory Oakes doing business as American Sentry Inc. (Vienna, Trumbull County), pleaded guilty April 28 in the Trumbull County Court of Common Pleas to five fifth-degree felony counts of forgery, six third-degree felony counts of tampering with records, two fourth-degree felony counts of workers' compensation fraud, two fifth-degree felony counts of workers' compensation fraud, and one third-degree felony count of theft. In November 2013, SID's employer fraud team assisted the Ohio State Highway Patrol and Ohio Department of Taxation in executing a search warrant at his home and business. Investigators found multiple BWC coverage certificates for different policies, and later determined that Oakes, owner of American Sentry Inc./Delta Elite Inc., purposely underreported payroll between January 2008 and June 2012. They also found that he altered BWC certificates and created a false certificate as well as provided false information on a BWC Application for Coverage for American Sentry Inc. Oakes was sentenced to serve 90 days in jail and five years of probation. He also paid $54,430 in restitution to BWC.
James Van Buskirk (Akron, Summit County) pleaded guilty April 30 in the U.S. District Court in Cleveland to nine felony counts of wire fraud, one count of fraudulently securing Social Security benefits and one count of theft of government funds. Investigators found that Van Buskirk worked as an independent construction contractor for his own business while receiving permanent total disability benefits. Investigators reviewed financial records, and conducted surveillance and interviews. Van Buskirk is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 10.
Andrea Thomas-Odeh (Dayton, Montgomery County) pleaded guilty April 1 in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas to one count of theft, a first-degree misdemeanor. A cross match of another state agency's data showed that Thomas-Odeh may have received wages while collecting BWC benefits. Investigators found that Thomas-Odeh returned to work as a home health aide between May and July 2012 while receiving temporary total disability benefits. Injured workers are not permitted to work while receiving this type of benefit. BWC previously received $1,173.34 in restitution. Thomas-Odeh was sentenced to 60 days in jail, which was suspended under the condition that court costs are paid by July 1.
Leona Cramer (Toledo, Lucas County) pleaded guilty April 9 in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas to one count of workers compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor. SID identified that Cramer was earning wages while collecting BWC benefits. Investigators found Cramer was working while receiving temporary total disability benefits between May and October 2012. Injured workers are not permitted to work while receiving this type of benefit. Cramer was sentenced to serve 180 days in jail, which was suspended for five years of community control. Cramer was also ordered to pay $2,440.28 in restitution to BWC and court costs.
Yue Liang doing business as New Sheng Hung (Cleveland, Cuyahoga County) pleaded guilty April 22 to workers compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor. BWC's employer compliance department and SID attempted to work with Liang, owner of New Sheng Hung, to resolve lapsed coverage. Liang failed to report payroll and pay premiums owed for the food warehouse and food delivery business. He was sentenced to time served and was ordered to pay court costs. He has reported all delinquent payroll to BWC, entered into a reinstatement payment plan and paid $5,315.42 as a deposit. He will pay the remainder of the $20,735.42 owed in restitution during the next year.
To report suspected workers' compensation fraud, call 1-800-644-6292 or visit bwc.ohio.gov. Check out our latest cases at ohiobwcfraud.wordpress.com, follow Fraud Fridays on Twitter @OhioBWCFraud, or join in the conversation at facebook.com/ohiobwcfraud. View and share BWC's workers' comp fraud awareness video on our YouTube channel.
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