State Checks Agency For Workers' Comp Coverage

AKRON, Ohio (AP) - The Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation plans to audit the employment agency that hired two former Canton men who were arrested following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The bureau began investigating HV Connect Staffing Ltd. following newspaper reports about the company's employment of two Moroccans who were arrested in a Detroit apartment that formerly was home to a suspected associate of Osama bin Laden.

The workers' compensation bureau is looking into whether the company is providing mandatory insurance for all of its employees. HV Connect has told the bureau it has only three employees -- all office workers -- but has told potential clients it has up to 100 workers for jobs that require substantially greater insurance coverage, the Akron Beacon Journal reported Wednesday.

Two workers placed by HV Connect were Karim Koubriti, 23, and Ahmed Hannan, 33, who worked at Case Farms in Winesburg, according to court records. In their apartment, were airport diagrams, false immigration forms, a fraudulent American visa and a false alien identification card. Koubriti and Hannan go on trial Jan. 22 on fraud charges.

No authorities have implicated HV Connect or its clients in the terrorist investigation.

Federal prosecutors in Detroit say Koubriti and Hannan were working illegally "for under the table wages," according to court records.

Tom Nguyen, chief executive officer of HV Connect in Ohio, denied the claim.

Since early 2000, HV Connect has supplied a labor force of mostly African and Asian immigrants to the chicken slaughter house in Winesburg, an egg farm south of Toledo and a packaging company and a paper recycler in Millersburg.

"We are investigating their payroll," said Robert Glenn, a spokesman for the Bureau of Workers' Compensation.

If the audit finds HV Connect reported incorrect employment figures, it could be forced to pay up to 10 times the insurance owed.

Nguyen said his workers in Ohio are covered by workers' compensation in Pennsylvania.

An Ohio workers' compensation official said that regardless of coverage in Pennsylvania, workers in Ohio must be covered by Ohio's workers' compensation insurance.

(Copyright 2001 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)