Eight convicted in Ohio comp fraud investigations

Business owners, fraudulent claimants and a health care provider who attempted to steal from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation are among eight convictions secured by the agency in August, the bureau announced on Friday.
The cases bring the year’s total convictions for state’s special investigations department to 100, the office reported.
“Employer premiums are set aside to care for Ohio’s injured workers,” said Special Investigations Team Director Jim Wernecke in a press statement. “We’re holding employers, medical providers and injured workers who cheat the system accountable to protect those dollars for Ohioans who need assistance until they can return to work.”
Among those convicted last month, according to a press release:
Richard Rocco, Rocco Prosthetics and Orthotics, of Cincinnati, Ohio, submitted multiple physician’s request for medical service forms without the knowledge or authority of the physicians whose names appeared on the forms. Investigators seized from his clinic a master template and copies of blank forms with names and signatures of physicians. Mr. Rocco was ordered to pay restitution of $16,762.
Natoya Finley, doing business as Close to Home Child Development Center, of Cleveland, Ohio, and co-owner Rebecca Barbee-Whitt were operating the center without workers comp coverage. Ms. Finley is now required to report monthly compliance with the established payment plan. Ms. Barbee-Whitt has a warrant for her arrest for failure to appear on the charges.
Thomas N. Jung, owner of Tom’s Industrial Truck Service, of Lima, Ohio, pleaded guilty to operating his business with lapsed workers comp coverage. Mr. Jung was previously investigated in 2012 for lapsed coverage before bringing his policy into compliance. Jung’s sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 2. He will not receive jail time if he brings his policy into good standing prior to sentencing.
Mark J. Cothern of Danville, Ohio, was found working at the Scoreboard Drive-in performing various duties while receiving temporary total benefits for workers comp. Mr. Cothern was sentenced to 180 days in jail, which was suspended for three years of community control, and required to obtain and maintain full-time employment and repay restitution in the amount of $9,406.46.
Alfred Bowlson of Toledo, Ohio, pleaded guilty to a fifth-degree felony count of workers comp fraud after reporting wages for employment to the state for his work as a maintenance person in various apartment complexes in the Toledo area while receiving comp disability. He was also receiving vocational rehabilitation and indicated he was discouraged at being unemployed and unable to provide for his family. Mr. Bowlson was sentenced to non-reporting community control for five years and ordered to pay restitution of $18,501.46 to the BWC. He will serve 11 months in prison if he violates these terms.
Elton Rista, owner of ED & R Dining Services, of Avon Lake, Ohio, pleaded guilty to a second-degree misdemeanor count of failure to comply after investigators found Mr. Rista was operating his business without workers comp coverage between June 2011 and August 2015. Mr. Rista was sentenced to 90 days in jail (suspended) and two years of non-reporting community control. He must also pay restitution of $9,478, return to compliance with workers comp laws, and pay court costs.
Shardette Nyarko of Columbus, Ohio, pleaded guilty to one count of workers comp fraud after investigators found that Ms. Nyarko filed three false claims stating she was injured at work when she was not even employed at the time.  A judge fined her $100, then suspended the fine. 

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