Left at the Altar

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Picture this: the wedding had been planned for months. The date was set and invitations sent out after the deposit was put down on the banquet hall. The flowers were chosen, the band paid for and the photographer selected. Then an announcement on the local news reveals that the venue was closed and no one was answering the phone. The sheer panic many customers in Niles, Ohio experienced was due to the owner of the venue, who not only jilted his customers, but also the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) by committing workers’ compensation fraud.

Today’s fraudster is the former manager of a banquet center that was located near Youngstown, Ohio. The popular wedding venue was identified through an Ohio Division of Liquor Control cross-match that revealed the business had a liquor license, but no coverage under the BWC. An investigation ensued and the BWC attempted to persuade the owner to obtain workers’ compensation coverage for his employees, but was unsuccessful. (When the BWC or any state’s workers’ compensation department asks you to obtain workers’ compensation coverage for your employees, it’s a good idea to do it.)

It was at that point when the case was referred to the Special Investigations Department. (You can guess what happened next.) An investigation into the matter determined that the banquet hall owner failed to pay $13,000 in workers’ compensation insurance fees over three years. (He also failed to pay his $10,000 electric bill, but further research revealed he set up a payment plan with the city’s utility provider to make good on the outstanding bill.)

The 68-year-old Ohioan pleaded guilty to attempted workers’ compensation fraud. The judge took pity on the man and suspended a 180-day jail sentence, giving him two years of probation instead. (However, if he doesn’t fulfill the probation orders, he’ll end up serving six months behind bars.) He must also pay court costs.

The banquet hall, which closed earlier in the year, left customers at the altar without much of an explanation, even though he eventually returned deposits and paid restitution. I guess you could say he learned an important lesson on courting. (Fraudsters love to steal what is not theirs to take and the government does not love to be betrayed. I guess you could say this unhealthy relationship is officially over.)

Today’s “Fraud of the Day” is based on an article entitled, Former banquet hall owners gets probation,” published by the Tribune Chronicle on September 19, 2017.

WARREN — The owner of a former banquet facility in Niles on Monday received two year’s probation on a misdemeanor conviction of attempted Workers’ Compensation fraud.

Robert Leonard, 68, of Cynthia Court, Niles, appeared before Trumbull County Common Pleas Court Judge Peter J. Kontos, who also suspended a 180-day jail sentence, which he said will be enforced if Leonard doesn’t fulfill the orders of his probation. Leonard was also ordered to pay court costs.

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Larry Benson
Larry Benson is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances for Revenue Discovery and Recovery at LexisNexis Risk Solutions. In this role, Benson is responsible for developing partnerships for the tax and revenue and child support enforcement verticals. He focuses on embedded companies that have a need for third-party analytics to enhance their current offerings.