BATAVIA, Ohio – A Batavia tree trimmer has to pay nearly $50,000 after investigators secretly videotaped him working while he was collecting workers' comp, according to the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation.
Cutler got in trouble after somebody tipped off the BWC that he was
working for a tree trimming operation while collecting disability for an
injury at another trimming business, the state said.
says it loses about $400 million a year in workers' comp fraud and the
BWC has a special investigation staff of 122 trying to flush it out.
Most of the investigations start with tips.
boyfriends, family members, co-workers ..." said Agent Thompson, who
didn't want to give his first name in order to protect his identity.
have an arsenal of surveillance tools - from big cameras to tiny lenses
in ball caps, water bottles, even coffee cups. "We want to put a stop
to it." Thompson said.
Cutler, however, said he contests the
state's claim he was caught working when he wasn't supposed to be.
Cutler provided WCPO with documents that show he was allowed to work
when the video was recorded.
"The (state) tried to allege that I
returned to work earlier than I had told them," Cutler said. "I did not
and the court threw that out."
BWC spokesman Bill Teets said the state is 100 percent accurate in its reporting.
we knew he was working," Teets said. "But he told us he was working one
job when he was actually doing another job. He was working a job he was
not supposed to be working. And furthermore, he was reporting a
different amount of money that he was actually making.
"He told us he was working in an office, but he was actually trimming trees."
Cutler pleaded guilty in Franklin County last month to felony counts of workers’ compensation fraud and forgery.
investigators were able to capture surveillance video that clearly
demonstrated Cutler was working, but even the video didn’t tell the
whole story,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Steve Buehrer. “They also
uncovered proof that Cutler was taking deliberate steps to ensure he
continued receiving benefits, which is also a crime.”
receiving living maintenance wage loss (LMWL) and temporary total
disability benefits, according to BWC. Workers can get LMWL if they do
rehabilitation but still lose wages and have physical restrictions after
returning to work. But Cutler was not submitting his real paychecks to
BWC as required. Instead, he was submitting forged checks, or checks for
lower amounts that he did not cash, BWC said.
Cutler was ordered
to repay $47,400, which included $45,000 in restitution and $2,400 for
investigative costs. The judge suspended his one-year jail sentence and
put him on community control for 18 months.