The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) first began investigating James T. Wilson, age 53, of New Albany when it was suspected the two companies he was owner and president of were operating without workers’ compensation coverage. Wilson ran both Performance Companies—which specialized in paving as well as hauling topsoil, concrete, and stone—and the Enviro Recycling Group, which specialized in the recycling of metal, asphalt, and concrete.
Investigators only took Wilson to court once it became clear he did not intend to purchase coverage. “We attempted to work with Mr. Wilson to bring his business into compliance with Ohio law,” explained Jim Wernecke, the director of the bureau’s Special Investigations Department. “Ultimately, we had to go with this course of action.” Wilson pleaded guilty to the count of “Failure to Comply,” a second-degree misdemeanor.
This is not the first time Wilson has failed to comply with Ohio workers’ compensation law. Nine years ago, he was found guilty of a fourth-degree felony charge of theft. Back then, Wilson was ordered to pay over $180,000 in restitution to the bureau. Wilson will be sentenced later, once bureau investigators have completed their audit of his businesses.
Workers’ compensation insurance can represent a significant overhead for business owners. I have reported on companies across the United States that have attempted to reduce their workers’ comp rates or even avoid paying them altogether. Recently, for example, I looked at the case of Salvatore Carbone in California, who falsely claimed he was the only employee at his two restaurants. I also reported on John Stergion of Texas, who concealed payroll to reduce his company’s workers’ compensation rates. Both men were found guilty of workers’ compensation insurance fraud.
In 2018, Ohio’s workers’ compensation premium rate index was $1.40 for every $100 of payroll. While this is 82% of the national median of $1.70 per $100 of payroll, the costs still add up. Not only that, but for high-risk industries such as those engaged in by both of Wilson’s companies, premiums end up being far higher.
Wernecke explained that he understood the pressures on business owners. “I can’t say this enough to employers in our system: If you’re struggling with your BWC premiums, reach out to our agency and work with us,” he said. “Don’t risk a criminal conviction.”
Another Ohio business owner, Yue Liang, was also found guilty of workers’ compensation fraud. Liang owns New Sheng Hung Inc., a company that delivers dairy, meat, and vegetable products to Chinese restaurants in Pennsylvania and Ohio. Liang was sentenced to a year of community control. He also agreed to carry adequate workers’ compensation insurance and pay the $5,500 he owed BWC. He will also pay $2,000 in restitution.
This is not Liang’s first brush with the law. In 2014, one of his delivery trucks was stopped for an inspection. Police found the food inside had spoiled and that the refrigeration unit was broken. After further investigation, police discovered an additional seven of Liang’s trucks had faulty refrigeration.
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