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For immediate release: Sept. 16, 2015

BWC investigations result in nine workers' comp fraud convictions in August

BWC investigations result in nine workers' comp fraud convictions in August

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 August 2015. These court actions are the result of investigations conducted by BWC's Special Investigations Department (SID).

"Any type of fraud takes dollars away from the State Insurance Fund, where employer premiums are deposited to care for Ohio injured workers," said Buehrer. "Those who commit fraud wrongfully take from both employers that pay into the fund and injured workers who need assistance until they can return to work."

The following is a sampling of cases that resulted in guilty pleas or convictions during August:

Charlene Porter (Columbus, Franklin County) pleaded guilty Aug. 3 in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas to attempted workers' compensation fraud, a first-degree misdemeanor, for working while receiving benefits. SID received an allegation from an anonymous source indicating Porter was working for a church performing janitorial work while receiving benefits for a workplace injury. The investigation found Porter was working during periods that she was receiving various benefits. Additionally, the investigation found Porter intentionally misrepresented and withheld her employment from the BWC in order to continue those benefits. Porter was sentenced to 90 days in jail, suspended for two years of community control. She was also ordered to pay $7,526 in restitution and $2,474 in investigative costs.

Thomas Blanton (Columbus, Franklin County) pleaded guilty Aug. 5 in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas to one first-degree misdemeanor count of workers' compensation fraud for working while receiving benefits. SID’s Intelligence Unit identified Blanton as possibly working while receiving benefits from BWC through a cross match with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. The investigation found Blanton knowingly and with fraudulent intent, worked for five different employers while he concurrently applied for and received temporary total disability benefits. He was sentenced to 120 days in jail, suspended if he pays $6,567 restitution, and was ordered to pay $1,000 in investigative costs. Blanton was placed on two years of non-reporting probation and he has that time to pay the money he owes to BWC.

William Blasingim, dba Sunset Towing, (Toledo, Lucas County) pleaded no contest Aug. 19 to a second-degree misdemeanor count of failure to comply for operating his business with lapsed coverage. Blasingim, owner/operator of Sunset Towing, had been operating without workers' compensation coverage and failed to reinstate his policy to bring his business into compliance with the law. Blasingim was successful in withholding from the BWC the amount of his premiums due during a time he was operating his towing business with lapsed coverage. Blasingim was ordered to pay a fine and court costs.

Charlotte Ellison (Cincinnati, Hamilton County) pleaded guilty Aug. 6 in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas to a first-degree misdemeanor charge of workers' compensation fraud for falsifying job searches. SID opened an investigation into Ellison after receiving an allegation from a BWC employee who suspected she was submitting false job searches in order to qualify for non-working wage loss disability benefits. Ellison was receiving non-working wage loss, which is payable to injured workers who are unable to find suitable employment In order to qualify, the injured worker must demonstrate a good faith effort to secure employment within physical restrictions, and is required to submit job search forms indicating an active search for employment. Ellison submitted 63 pages with 154 in-person alleged job searches and 83 alleged online job searches, for a total of 237 job searches. All 65 job contacts interviewed indicated that Ellison never sought employment or submitted an application as she indicated to BWC. Prior to sentencing, Ellison paid all but $540.29 of the $3,896.93 she owed BWC. A judge ordered her to repay the remaining balance and sentenced her to ten days in jail, which will be suspended if restitution is paid in full by Feb. 6, 2016.

Richard Wey, dba North Shore Security Systems, (Twinsburg, Summit County) was sentenced Aug. 13 in the Summit County Court of Common Pleas on one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a fifth-degree felony, for falsifying his certificate of coverage. An employee from an out-of-state company tipped off BWC that Wey presented what appeared to be a valid BWC certificate of premium payment, but BWC's website indicated that the business had lapsed coverage. BWC provides employers with a certificate to prove they have current coverage. It is a crime to alter that certificate in order to make it appear coverage has been maintained. Fraud agents interviewed Wey, who would not admit to or deny altering the document. Wey was sentenced to eight months of incarceration, which was suspended, and two years of community control. He was ordered to pay $3,587.63 in restitution, plus court costs, and was ordered to not have any additional law violations.

Terrence O. Smith (Bedford, Cuyahoga County) was sentenced Aug. 26 in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas on one count of workers' compensation fraud, a fifth-degree felony, for working while receiving benefits. SID received an internal allegation that Smith faxed records to BWC from a recycling business. Investigators found that Smith returned to work as a laborer for the recycling business while receiving wage loss not working benefits from May 2010 to January 2014. This type of benefit is reserved for claimants that are unable to find employment, and they must demonstrate that they’re trying to secure employment within their physical restrictions. Smith was ordered to pay $27,099.08 in restitution to BWC and was sentenced to five years of community control. If he fails to abide by the terms of his probation, he could face a year in jail.

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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