A Bad Seed


There are multiple reasons for pruning. In general, it helps the plant, and its foliage to become stronger and healthier. Today ‘s fraudster, who worked for a tree and landscape company, had already been “pruned” once for a prior workers’ compensation conviction. (Unfortunately, the punishment didn’t nip this criminal ‘s fraudulent nature in the bud and he bore more bad fruit.)

The Ohio man ‘s first conviction involved a guilty plea to forgery, tampering with records and failure to pay workers’ compensation coverage. He got eight years behind bars, but the sentence was suspended and he received two years of probation. (He didn’t stop with that crime, but moved on to the next one.)

The tree trimmer ‘s next conviction involved charges that he underreported his company ‘s payroll, which enabled him to lower his Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) premiums by thousands of dollars. The BWC ‘s Employer Fraud Unit received a tip that the repeat fraudster was intentionally under-reporting his payroll. Investigators discovered that he was misclassifying employees as subcontractors and the BWC advised him to correct the problem and properly report his payroll. (That was very nice of them to give him a generous warning, especially since he had been previously convicted of workers’ compensation.)

Three years later, he was back at it. This time, the BWC found that the man had under-reported his payroll by about $40,000, just for the first half of the year. The 46-year-old landscaper, who had quite a history of cheating the Ohio BWC, pleaded guilty to one count of workers’ compensation fraud. After one conviction and a strong warning, his third confrontation with disciplinary action left him with a two-year sentence in community control. He was also ordered to pay $17,366 in restitution.

The good news is that the restitution will be funneled back into the state ‘s workers’ compensation fund that is used for taking care of injured workers and creating safe workplaces. Another condition of the sentence is that he must bring his business into compliance with Ohio ‘s workers’ compensation law. (Let ‘s hope that the third time of being disciplined by the BWC is the charm, but I’m not counting on it. Sometimes, plants don’t grow right because they came from a bad seed.)

Source: Today’s “Fraud of the Day” is based on an article entitled, “Try as he might, tree trimmer can’t cheat BWC and get away with it,” published by the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation on March 24, 2017.

An Akron tree trimmer with a history of cheating the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) owes more than $17,000 in restitution to the state agency following his guilty plea last month in a Summit County courtroom.

Matthew Mueller, 46, of Mueller Tree & Landscape, pleaded guilty Feb. 16 in the Summit County Court of Common Pleas to one count of workers’ compensation fraud, a fourth degree felony. The conviction, Mueller’s second on similar charges since 2005, followed a BWC investigation that found Mueller under-reported his payroll to lower his BWC premiums by thousands of dollars.

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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.