Ohio Man Ordered to Repay $13K in Workers’ Comp Benefits
Columbus, OH – A former Mentor (Lake County) man was ordered to pay more than $13,000 in workers’ compensation restitution. Russell Whitman pleaded guilty June 12 to workers’ compensation fraud, a fifth-degree felony, after an investigation by the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) revealed he and his wife concocted an elaborate scheme to submit false documents to the agency, so he would continue to receive workers’ compensation benefits while incarcerated.
“A quick-thinking claims service specialist spotted a newspaper article about the incarcerated injured worker, and reported it to our Special Investigations Department,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Steve Buehrer. “We often rely on tips from the public and from our own staff to report instances of suspected fraud, which we investigate in order to protect Ohio employers and the State Insurance Fund.”
The Northeast Region 1 Special Investigations Unit (SIU) began investigating Whitman, and his wife, Regina Whitman, after receiving the allegation. Both worked for a family-owned business in Lake County and were suspected of embezzling a large amount of money from there. By reviewing hours of recorded jail phone calls between the Whitmans, the SIU confirmed that his wife, who was the payroll manager for the business, submitted false payroll reports to the BWC on behalf of her husband. Those records allowed Whitman to collect workers’ compensation benefits he was not entitled to receive.
Whitman was ordered to pay $13,696.27 in restitution to the BWC and was sentenced to serve six months in prison, which will run concurrently with his current five-year sentence at the Belmont Correctional Institution for the embezzlement of more than $285,000. His wife was previously sentenced.
Source: Ohio BWC