Worst Case Scenario

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Closeup shot of an unrecognizable man sitting in a wheelchair

Worst case scenarios are good for learning how to prevent the possibility of something very bad from happening. Unfortunately, the owner of an Akron, Ohio, construction company learned the lesson too late. The man failed to maintain workers’ compensation insurance coverage for his business. Now one employee is dead and the business owner is awaiting sentencing for involuntary manslaughter and a workers’ compensation fraud conviction.

It appears that the Akron business owner had a history of employee injuries and noncompliance with the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation (BWC). After a 39-year-old worker fell 25 feet from the sloped roof of a three-story apartment complex, investigators found that the victim did not have fall protection. It was also discovered that two other employees were injured before this tragic event. (As you might guess, the construction company owner did not have workers’ compensation coverage at that time either.)

As investigators delved deeper into the tragic event, the BWC discovered that the owner had a history of lying. The owner claimed that over nine years of operation, he had not employed any workers despite an audit that revealed $286,00 in payroll during that time. The BWC had also been notified that the construction business was no longer in operation. (But five months after the tragic death, workers were observed tearing shingles off of a roof with no safety equipment.)

The Akron business owner pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and workers’ compensation fraud. Now he owes the BWC $303,152 for unpaid workers’ compensation premiums and claims costs for workers injured during the time that the insurance policy was not in place. When sentenced, he faces five years behind bars and a fine of up to $10,000 for involuntary manslaughter.

This sad case shows why employers need workers’ compensation insurance. It not only protects workers from unexpected accidents, but also the owner from liability. This man’s total disregard for his responsibility under Ohio law and his deliberate avoidance to pay workers’ compensation insurance premiums has not only caused the loss of one man’s life, but put the lives of his deceased employee’s spouse and five children in jeopardy. (This is a worst case scenario and nightmare all wrapped into one.)

Today’s “Fraud of the Day” is based on an article, “Akron business owner pleads guilty to involuntary manslaughter, workers’ compensation fraud,” published by Crain’s Cleveland Business on August 2, 2019.

An Akron business owner has pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and workers’ compensation fraud, after a 2017 fall left one of his employees dead.

James D. Coon, the owner of James Coon Construction, on July 24 pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, a third-degree felony, according to a news release from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. He has also pleaded guilty to a charge of workers’ compensation fraud, a fourth-degree felony. Bureau investigators found that Coon did not have workers’ compensation coverage when the employee died and that he “repeatedly lied about his business to minimize his premiums or avoid paying them altogether,” the release said.

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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.