People cheating workers' comp costing taxpayers millions

CLEVELAND – A dozen Clevelanders were recently caught cheating workers compensation. It's big-time fraud that costs taxpayers millions.

The Investigator, Tom Meyer, said that it happens with disturbing regularity.

Martin Meyers Jr. is among those recently indicted on charges they defrauded workers' comp. Meyers is the same man who taught shop at Euclid High School. He was forced out when he was indicted on charges that he stole lumber and other shop materials from the school.

In Cleveland and across Ohio, workers' comp fraud is a major problem. State investigators have recovered nearly $100 million in fraud -- and that was just last year.

Investigators find about one in every 10 payouts is fraudulent.

"Anytime you pay a benefit out, you will have people who will take advantage and try to abuse the system, steal from the system," workers' comp investigator Thomas Wersell said.

The "people" for whom Wersell is referring are those like Clinton Gwin, who collected total disability for 11 years. Gwin (pictured working on a roof, above) said that he sprained his back and was unable to work, but investigators caught him doing heavy labor with various contractors the entire time that he collected workers' comp.

Then there's Renne Jefferson of Bedford Heights. A court ordered her to pay back more than $300,000 in benefits.

She was caught driving despite claiming to be blind. The "injured" Jefferson, who also claimed to have a neck and back sprain, was caught by a hidden camera working at a local jewelry store.

The state says fraud cases are up.

"If you're going to do it, we're going to catch you," Wersell said. "It may not be today or tomorrow, but we will catch you."

And when they do catch you, like the time they caught an injured worker chopping down a tree, they promise to prosecute you. In the past year, more than a 150 Ohioans have been indicted for workers' comp fraud, and nearly all of those folks have been convicted.