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Workers' Comp Fraud Earns a $20,000 Fine

A Franklin County (Ohio) judge sentenced Timothy Panko on Jan. 23 to pay restitution to the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC). Panko was working while receiving temporary total disability (TTD) benefits from BWC.

On Nov. 4, 1996, Panko was injured while working for North Coast Home Improvement Corp. He filed a claim on Feb. 17, 1993, and his claim was allowed based on a lumbrosacral sprain. He worked during the time he collected benefits,collecting $19,479 in workers' compensation payments.

BWC's special investigations unit (SIU) received a tip from Panko's former employer, who stated Panko was working in western Pennsylvania while still receiving benefits from BWC. Injured workers who receive TTD benefits are totally disabled for a temporary period of time due to an occupational injury and cannot work as a result of the injury.

Upon investigation, Panko was found to have started his own construction business, Panko Construction and Trimmery, in March 2000. Panko worked for his business while collecting benefits from BWC from March 2000 until the end of the investigation in September 2001.

He was charged with one count of workers' compensation fraud, a fifth-degree felony and eventually pled guilty in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas on Dec. 12, 2002.

"Ohio has once again taken an aggressive approach to cracking down on workers' comp fraud," said James Conrad, BWC CEO/administrator. "All parties who do business with BWC must continue to work together to identify fraudulent activity so that employers' premiums remain low and injured workers continue to receive prompt and thorough treatment."

In fiscal year 2002, BWC's SIU uncovered $98.8 million in savings from fraudulent activity. It referred 312 subjects for criminal prosecution.

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