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For immediate release: August 14, 2015

Guernsey County hot dog vendor sentenced for workers' comp fraud

Columbus - A Cambridge (Guernsey County) man has been sentenced for workers' compensation fraud after investigators with the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) captured him on video operating a hot dog cart while he was supposed to be recovering from a workplace injury. James E. Harris appeared in a Franklin County courtroom on July 27 and paid restitution totaling more than $4,000.

"Any type of work, whether in an office or outside at a food truck, is a violation of the law for claimants receiving benefits that do not permit employment," said BWC Administrator/CEO Steve Buehrer. "Returning to work, and concealing that employment, brings into question not only the need for that claimant to be receiving workers' comp benefits, but their truthfulness as well."

BWC's Special Investigations Department received an allegation indicating Harris was operating a hot dog cart called ED-DEE’s Dog Wagon while receiving Temporary Total Disability compensation. Claimants are not permitted to work while receiving this type of benefit.

Investigators performed surveillance documenting Harris working at the hot dog cart, cooking and serving food to customers. They also located pictures Harris had posted to Facebook that showed him working at the cart. Vendor agreements were obtained from two local festivals and Harris listed himself as the contact person on both agreements. Finally, records from the Guernsey County Health Department showed Harris had taken an online food safety course and his name was listed on a food commissary agreement.

The investigation confirmed Harris knowingly operated ED-DEE's Dog Wagon during periods for which he received benefits from BWC. He failed to notify BWC, his physician of record or his employer of his work activities.

Harris entered a guilty plea to one misdemeanor count of workers' compensation fraud. He paid full restitution of $4,234.99 prior to pleading and was also ordered by Judge Beatty to pay court costs.

Surveillance video is available here and a photo of Harris is available here.

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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