COLUMBUS — A Middleport business owner has been sentenced in Franklin County for working while receiving workers’ compensation benefits for a prior workplace injury.
Charles Morris, Jr., 62, was sentenced last week and must repay nearly $30,000 he improperly collected from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC).
Morris was charged in July 2012 with worker’s compensation fraud and theft. According to court records, the offenses occurred Sept. 24, 2008. Both are felonies of the fourth degree.
Morris pleaded guilty late last year to the charge of worker’s compensation fraud, as a fifth degree felony, in the case.
“Mr. Morris was free to continue ownership of his business, but actually doing the work of an HVAC technician was prohibited and calls into question whether he needed these benefits in the first place,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Steve Buehrer. “The amount he collected while supposedly unable to work was significant and should have been reserved for injured workers who are actually unable to work.”
Morris was receiving Temporary Total Disability benefits, which is usually the first form of compensation awarded during an injured worker’s recovery from a work-related injury. An injured worker cannot work and receive temporary total disability payments.
BWC’s Special Investigations Division (SID) received an allegation that Morris was working as the owner/operator of Chuck’s Heating and Cooling while on Temporary Total Disability. Investigators found Morris was performing work as an HVAC technician. A review of his bank records identified numerous customers who confirmed they hired and paid Morris for HVAC work he completed himself.
Morris pleaded guilty Nov. 6 and was sentenced Jan. 3 in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas. Judge Sheeren ordered him to pay restitution and investigation cost in the amount of $29,415.27, as well as court costs. He also received a prison sentence of nine months, suspended for a three-year period of community control.
According to court documents, Morris was represented by Paul M. Aucoin.