Where Everyone Knows Your Name

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The place where everybody knows your name once referred to the iconic Bostonian bar in the hit television show, Cheers. In today’s fraud article, that place happens to be Facebook, the bane of existence for a Lakewood, Ohio bartender who publicized the fact she was working, while receiving disability benefits. Social media helped to point investigators in the right direction, ultimately helping them catch her in the act of committing workers’ compensation fraud. (Now, everyone knows her name and what she did.)

Today, social media is a fraud investigator’s best friend. Previous investigative techniques used to involve time consuming surveillance, but now fraudsters virtually catch themselves when they participate in public forums where clues of their whereabouts and actions are instantly available. (Social media definitely cuts down on time needed for the chase and provides compelling evidence.)

While the bartender was legitimately injured while working at a Cleveland restaurant in 2012, it didn’t stop her from gaining employment as a bartender in three separate establishments during a seven-month period. (It was during this time when she was simultaneously collecting temporary total disability benefits (TTD).) TTD benefits are available to qualified individuals when they are unable to return to work due to their work-related injuries. (They are supposed to provide the injured workers with wages comparable to the amount they earned before sustaining their injury.)

While serving up beers at the three bars, she was also serving up fraud when she deliberately concealed her employment status from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC). The company handling her work injury claim saw a Facebook post that indicated she was gainfully employed at another bar in Westlake. (Who knows, her future as a bartender might be on the rocks at this point.)

The 26-year-old woman from Lakewood, Ohio pleaded guilty to a first-degree misdemeanor charge of workers’ compensation fraud. (The judge delivered the bartender’s sentence straight up without a cherry on top.) She must serve two years of probation and pay back the BWC $7,595 in restitution for the undeserved benefits she collected.

Today’s article states that the BWC uses social media to help track down fraudsters in most of their cases. (It certainly is another tool that can be used to catch criminals who are intent on stealing benefits they do not deserve.) Fraudsters tend to be cocky and will boast of their illegal accomplishments online as if to taunt law enforcement. But, it looks like the BWC has announced the last call and now it’s time for the bartender to pay up.

Today’s “Fraud of the Day” is based on an article entitled, “Lakewood woman posts on Facebook about bartending job, pleaded guilty to workers’ compensation fraud,” posted on Cleveland.com on May 25, 2018.

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Gabriella Benkovits, 26, of Lakewood, pleaded guilty Tuesday to workers’ compensation fraud after a Facebook post tipped off investigators that she was bartending while receiving disability benefits.

The Bureau of Workers’ Compensation found that Benkovits worked at three different places while receiving benefits. She must pay back $7,595 and must serve two years of probation for the first-degree misdemeanor, a judge in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas ruled.

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Larry Benson
Larry Benson is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances for Revenue Discovery and Recovery at LexisNexis Risk Solutions. In this role, Benson is responsible for developing partnerships for the tax and revenue and child support enforcement verticals. He focuses on embedded companies that have a need for third-party analytics to enhance their current offerings.