Carl Monday: 'Background noise' leads to new fraud conviction for imprisoned trash hauler

Christopher Gattarello (Source: BWC)
Christopher Gattarello (Source: BWC)

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - A Cleveland garbage hauler and construction worker currently serving time in a federal prison for fraud, money laundering and violating the Clean Act now been convicted of workers' compensation fraud.

Christopher Gattarello, 53, was first exposed in a Cleveland 19 News investigation in 2014. On Nov. 22, he pleaded guilty to a felony count of workers' compensation fraud for working while receiving temporary disability benefits from the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation.

A Franklin County judge sentenced Gattarello to 186 days in jail with credit for time served.

"On a story you guys broke, he was awaiting sentencing on a federal conviction for a fraud charge, and while he's awaiting that fraud conviction, he's creating fraud against the state in full public view," said Phillip Brickman, Special Agent In Charge with BWC's Special Investigations Department.

"On day one, we found him leaving home and going to work," said Brickman.

Gattarello's fraud against BWC started in March 2015, the same month he was convicted on the federal charges, and continued through June 2016. Undercover video taken by BWC investigators shows Gattarello operating heavy construction equipment while he was also collecting disability benefits. He was filmed driving dump trucks and operating excavators for a local construction company that was contracted by the city to demolish abandoned homes.

"This was pretty easy detective work on our part, thanks to our customer claims staff," said Jim Wernecke, director of BWC's Special Investigations Department. "Every time our claims representatives telephoned Gattarello about his injury claim, they could hear construction noise in the background. We simply followed up from there."

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Back in July, Gattarello was sentenced to 57 months in federal prison for failing to remove asbestos from the former National Acme Building on East 131st St. before demolishing the building. He was also ordered to pay $7.8 million in restitution for violating the Clean Air Act.

Gattarello bought the Acme site for the purpose of opening a recycling plant, but instead used it as his personal dumping ground for tons of garbage his companies brought there.

When Cleveland 19 first visited the site in 2013, we found waste piled two stories high, and rats running throughout the facility. The site is smack in the middle of a residential area with a school building nearby.

But it wasn't the only inner-city location used by Gattarello to dump his trash.

Cleveland 19 hidden cameras caught Gattarello also hauling trash to an empty warehouse in the Collinwood area. Days later, city inspectors showed up in force at the facility and cited Gatarello.

In a related case, Gattarello was also convicted in 2015 for defrauding a Louisiana company out of nearly $1.2 million. He was accused of submitting false invoices for work his companies never performed and then used some of the money to pay off his personal credit card.

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