Left at the Altar


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, Senior Director of Strategic Alliances, LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Government

Larry Benson is responsible for developing strategic partnerships and solutions for the government vertical. His expertise focuses on how government programs are defrauded by criminal groups, and the approaches necessary to prevent them from succeeding.

Mr. Benson has 30 years of experience in sales and business development. Before joining LexisNexis® Risk Solutions, he spent 12 years founding and managing two software technology startups. During the 1990s he spent 10 years as a Regional Director helping to grow a New England-based technology company from 300 employees to 7,000. He started his career with Martin Marietta Aerospace working on laser guided weapons and day/night vision systems.

A sought-after speaker and accomplished writer, Mr. Benson is the principal author of “Fraud of the Day,” a website dedicated to educating government officials about how criminals are defrauding government programs. He has co-authored WTF? Where’s the Fraud? How to Unmask and Stop Identity Fraud’s Drain on Our Government, and Data Personified, How Fraud is Changing the Meaning of Identity.

Benson holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Albright College, and earned two graduate degrees – a Master of Business Administration from Florida Institute of Technology, and a Master of Science in Engineering from Lehigh University.