Stories about people who scam state workers' compensation programs by collecting benefits while they are perfectly able to work are not uncommon. Unfortunately, neither are real-life cases of such crimes.
Some states have effective programs to track down and bring the crooks to justice. The Special Investigations Department in Ohio's Bureau of Workers' Compensation is among them.
During the unit's 20-year history, it has apprehended enough cheats to save the workers' compensation program an estimated $1.5 billion. That's a substantial chunk of change saved for Buckeye State businesses, which pay premiums to provide coverage for their employees. It also is money that helps to ensure workers injured on the job get help.
Here are a few of the cases the SID has handled during the past couple of years:
Last summer, a Crawford County couple, Robin and Randy Hammond, were caught on videotape engaging in their scheme to defraud workers' compensation. Mrs. Hammond claimed to have suffered a workplace injury that made her incapable of using her arms and legs.
Yet SID investigators got tape of her walking around, using both her arms and legs. They also taped her using a wheelchair for a visit to the doctor, then getting out of it after she left. She was convicted of fraud and sentenced to a year in prison. The two were ordered to pay $173,332 in restitution.
An Akron woman was ordered to repay $88,000 in benefits after she was caught running the clothing store she owned, apparently without difficulty.
A Lake County man was caught in a similar swindle as he ran a catering business while collecting workers' compensation. He was ordered to repay $76,000.
Sometimes, the SID gets help from working Ohioans fed up with workers' compensation fraud by people they know. One man used his cell phone to videotape a coworker bragging about faking an injury so he could collect workers' compensation.
Outrageous stories about workers' compensation fraud are more than just anecdotes. Too often, they are true.
Good for the SID for going after the cheaters. If you know of one, call the agency at 1-800-644-6292.