Authorities in the Buckeye State moved quickly recently to arrest a pair of men on workers compensation fraud charges.
In the first case, a St. Clairsville (Belmont County) man pleaded guilty to fraud after investigators with the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation (BWC) found he was submitting false paperwork in order to receive workplace injury benefits. Charles Oberdick pleaded guilty June 17 in Franklin County Court of Common Pleas to one count of workers comp fraud.
“BWC’s goal is to get injured workers healthy and back on the job as soon as possible,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Steve Buehrer. “Falsifying paperwork in order to continue benefits is not only contrary to that goal, it is a crime that unfairly draws employer premiums dollars from the State Insurance Fund.”
Oberdick 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 searching for employment. BWC’s Special Investigations Unit received an internal allegation from a claims service specialist that Oberdick was not performing job searches and was submitting falsified job search forms in order to continue receiving these benefits.
The investigation showed Oberdick knowingly misrepresented the majority of his job searches to BWC. Reviews of his job searches showed the majority of the employers he claimed to seek employment with did not have his resume on file.
The investigation also showed Oberdick routinely listed the same business on multiple job search forms for different time periods, and listed contacts on Saturday, Sunday and holidays when the businesses were not open. As a result of the false job search forms, BWC paid benefits to Oberdick he was not entitled to receive.
Judge Holbrook sentenced Oberdick to a suspended sentence of 90 days incarceration under the conditions that he pays court costs and restitution in the amount of $2,458.86.
Guilty Plea, More Than $13K in Restitution Ordered
Meantime, a former Mentor (Lake County) man was ordered to pay more than $13,000 in workers comp restitution.
Russell Whitman pleaded guilty June 12 to workers comp fraud, a fifth-degree felony, after an investigation by the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation (BWC) revealed he and his wife concocted an elaborate scheme to submit false documents to the agency, so he would continue to receive workers comp benefits while incarcerated.
“A quick-thinking claims service specialist spotted a newspaper article about the incarcerated injured worker, and reported it to our Special Investigations Department,” saidBuehrer. “We often rely on tips from the public and from our own staff to report instances of suspected fraud, which we investigate in order to protect Ohio employers and the State Insurance Fund.”
The Northeast Region 1 Special Investigations Unit (SIU) began investigating Whitman, and his wife, Regina Whitman, after receiving the allegation. Both worked for a family-owned business in Lake County and were suspected of embezzling a large amount of money from there.
By reviewing hours of recorded jail phone calls between the Whitmans, the SIU confirmed that his wife, who was the payroll manager for the business, submitted false payroll reports to the BWC on behalf of her husband. Those records allowed Whitman to collect workers comp benefits he was not entitled to receive.
Whitman was ordered to pay $13,696.27 in restitution to the BWC and was sentenced to serve six months in prison, which will run concurrently with his current five-year sentence at the Belmont Correctional Institution for the embezzlement of more than $285,000. His wife was previously sentenced.
Author Kori Shafer-Stack, Editor, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in post-injury response procedures and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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