Kelley Wheeler, Port Clinton, pleaded guilty to workers’ compensation fraud after her Facebook postings helped prove she was working while collecting benefits for a workplace injury, said Melissa Vince, spokeswoman with the state Bureau of Workers Compensation.
A news release from the agency provided the following:
Wheeler pleaded guilty May 16 in a Franklin County courtroom and was ordered to repay more than $61,000 she collected inappropriately.
“As social media has grown, BWC investigators have deployed enhanced analysis of these sites to support our investigations,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Steve Buehrer. “Our fraud team has proven very resourceful when it comes to ensuring dishonest employers, workers and providers do not escape detection.”
Wheeler was receiving working wage loss, which is available to injured workers who have found work other than their former position but receive less in pay than they did at the time of injury. BWC’s Special Investigations Department (SID) opened an investigation after receiving an allegation from a BWC claims services specialist who became suspicious of the employment documentation Wheeler submitted in order to qualify for these benefits.
The investigation showed Wheeler submitted 64 different false payroll documents indicating she worked at a Travelers Transport in Port Clinton, a business that never existed. Investigators found Wheeler created timesheets and submitted them to BWC to qualify for benefits. Investigators also found she was employed at Purrfect Paws Grooming Boutique in Sandusky and failed to report those wages, which were necessary to properly calculate her benefits.
SID’s Digital Forensics Team was also able to obtain photos and postings from the Wheeler’s Facebook page showing her while working at Purrfect Paws. Additional postings and pictures from the Purrfect Paws Facebook page showed Wheeler at work during a period she was receiving disability.
Wheeler was interviewed and admitted the payroll documents she submitted from Travelers Transport were false, and she purposely did not report her earnings from Purrfect Paws. She acknowledged knowing what she was doing was wrong but was did not want to lose the benefits.
A judge ordered Wheeler to pay restitution totaling $61,213.72, in addition to a $500 fine and court costs, as well as 17 months of incarceration, suspended for five years of community control.