Drywall, a cost-efficient replacement to plaster, has been around since the early 1900s. While it has revolutionized modern construction, it does pose some risks to workers who install the material. A Pataskala, Ohio drywall installer, who reported an on-the-job injury, was recently convicted for committing workers’ compensation fraud. (He collected benefits he did not deserve and built up his bank account balance by double dipping.)
While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that there were 11 fatalities associated with drywalling in 2013, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) states that the most common injuries associated with drywalling are overexertion and falls. (The average sheet of drywall weighs between 50 and 75 pounds so I’m guessing that today’s fraudster’s injury was a result of an accident related to heavy lifting.)
The Ohio drywall installer made a dishonest living by collecting his workers’ compensation benefits at the same time he was employed as a maintenance man at an area mobile home park. (He was also working for other private individuals as well all the while raking in the money from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC).) Over two years, he banked $41,413 in workers’ compensation disability benefits from his Reynoldsburg, Ohio employer. (While that might not seem like a lot, that is $1,725.54 per month that someone else who qualified for workers’ compensation benefits could not receive.)
While the Pataskala man was building a fortune for himself, someone noticed. Perhaps it was a relative, neighbor, or former co-worker who made a call to the BWC to report their suspicion. (It wasn’t long before investigators identified the flaw in the design of the fraudster’s workers’ compensation fraud scheme.)
The 35-year-old drywaller pleaded guilty to a fifth-degree felony count of workers’ compensation fraud. He was ordered to pay restitution in the amount he stole to his employer and was sentenced to a year in jail, although it was suspended in exchange for three years of probation. (He was fortunate that he did not have to spend time behind bars or pay any fines.)
Congratulations to the whistleblower for doing the right thing by notifying the BWC. This case is also a good reminder of how seriously the BWC takes its job of protecting both employers, who pay into the compensation insurance system, and employees who qualify to receive benefits. Workers’ compensation benefits are for individuals who are trying to make an honest living. It’s not for those who are trying to cheat the system.
Today’s “Fraud of the Day” is based on an article entitled, “Area drywall installer caught cheating workers’ comp,” published by Norwalk Reflector on August 18, 2018.
COLUMBUS — A maintenance man for a mobile home park must reimburse his former employer more than $41,000 after pleading guilty Tuesday to a felony count of workers’ compensation fraud.
Acting on a tip, investigators with the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation discovered Jason C. Smith, 35, of Pataskala, working for a mobile home park and for private individuals for nearly two years while collecting $41,413 in disability benefits from his employer, TS Tech USA Corporation in Reynoldsburg.