Investigation leads to four arrested for workers' comp fraud - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Investigation leads to four arrested for workers' comp fraud

COLUMBUS, OH (WOIO) -

On Wednesday, October 15, the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) Administrator/CEO Steve Buehrer announced that four individuals were convicted of, or pleaded guilty to, charges related to defrauding Ohio's workers' compensation system in September 2014.

“Workers' compensation fraud is far from a victimless crime,” Buehrer said. “Fraud affects employer premiums, which indirectly affects consumers. Our Special Investigations Department does a fine job of detecting and deterring workers' compensation fraud to protect the State Insurance Fund and to keep employer premiums low.”

In September four men either entered guilty pleas or were convicted as a result of an BWC's investigation.

Michael Meekins, of Akron, pleaded guilty Sept. 19 in Summit County Court of Common Pleas to one count of workers' compensation fraud, a fifth-degree felony. BWC's Canton special investigations unit received a tip that Meekins was a professional wrestler engaging in wrestling matches while receiving disability benefits for an injury.  Investigators attended one of Meekins' "highly physical" wrestling matches. Meekins' hid his wrestling activities from both BWC and his physician. He was sentenced to community control for one year and ordered to pay $1,111.60 in restitution to BWC.

Thomas Guardiola of Montpelier, pleaded guilty Sept. 23 in Franklin County Court of Common Pleas to one count of workers' compensation fraud, a fifth-degree felony. Apparently Guardiola was working at a Montpelier hotel while collecting BWC disability benefits. Investigators say he collected $10,861.88 in temporary total disability between October 2012 and March 2013. Guardiola is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 13.

Robert Parks, Jr. of Akron, pleaded guilty Sept. 5 to one count of workers' compensation fraud, a fourth-degree felony. Parks' employer brought it to the attention of BWC that Parks was operating a Summit County swimming pool installation business, ACP Ohio Inc., without BWC coverage. Investigators found that the business operated with employees since its workers' compensation coverage had lapsed. Parks must pay $66,591.18 in restitution during his 18-month probation.

Todd Smith of Columbus, pleaded guilty Sept. 25 to one count of workers' compensation fraud, a fifth-degree felony. According to authorities, Smith's business, A T Xpress, made a dishonored payment. Agents obtained payroll records and found that the business was under-reporting wages to BWC. Agents interviewed Smith, who advised them he reduced the reportable wages to BWC in order to give his business a premium discount for a not at fault claim, which was filed against the business. However, when asked to provide the method of discount used in calculating the premiums, Smith could not provide an answer. Smith is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 12.

To report suspected workers' compensation fraud, call 1-800-644-6292 or visit bwc.ohio.gov. Check out our latest cases on our fraud blog, ohiobwcfraud.wordpress.com, follow Fraud Fridays on Twitter @OhioBWCFraud, or join in the conversation at www.facebook.com/ohiobwcfraud. View and share BWC's workers' comp fraud awareness video on our YouTube channel.

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