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The Past is an Indication of Our Future

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Company and Industry Highlights

January 2011

St. Louis employers ordered incarcerated for failing to comply with US Department of Labor's OSHA citations and court sanctions

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration today announced the arrest of Brian Andre, former owner of Andre Tuckpointing and Brickwork, and Regina Shaw, owner of Andre Stone & Mason Work Inc., the successor company to Andre Tuckpointing and Brickwork. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis ordered their arrest and incarceration for repeatedly failing to comply with court sanctions enforcing OSHA citations that had become final orders of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The two were taken into custody today by authorities.

The order for incarceration stems from Mr. Andre and Ms. Shaw's failure to comply with sanctions ordered by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, following the court's initial ruling of contempt against Andre and Shaw in January 2010.

"Employers who expose workers to hazards and blatantly ignore OSHA citations will not be allowed to escape their responsibility of keeping workers safe – or sanctions levied against them for failing to do so," said Charles E. Adkins, OSHA's regional administrator in Kansas City, Mo.

OSHA issued numerous citations from June 2003 to the present, to both the original company and its successor, for willful, repeat and serious violations related to fall hazards, scaffolding erection deficiencies, power tool guarding and other hazards in connection with multiple St. Louis-area projects. When the companies failed to comply with the court's 11(b) order enforcing the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission's final orders, the Labor Department's Office of the Solicitor filed petitions for contempt.

As a result, a special master of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals found Brian Andre, Andre Stone & Mason Work Inc. and Regina Shaw in contempt, and ordered various sanctions including requiring them to pay outstanding penalties, continually accruing interest and new balance damen other miscellaneous fees in the current amount of $258,582. Andre Stone & Mason Work Inc. and Regina Shaw must pay a $100 daily penalty, calculated from the time of default in early 2008 on the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission's final orders. Andre Stone & Mason Work Inc. must provide OSHA weekly notification of all current jobs and known future jobs at least 72 hours prior to commencement of work for a period of three years. The company also must provide training to all persons currently and subsequently designated as jobsite "competent persons" prior to beginning any work and provide the department with records of such training.

Source: www.osha.gov


TAX CASE LEADS TO WORKERS’ COMPENSATION FRAUD ARREST

A Bronx bookkeeper was arrested Wednesday after her prosecution for federal income tax fraud led to the discovery that she had illegally collected more than $135,000 in New York State workers’ compensation benefits.

Rosa Rivera, 62, began collecting $400 a week in benefits after claiming that she injured a knee, elbow and ankle while working as a bookkeeper in 2002. Then she opened an income tax service business out of her home. At the same time, she filed routine reports with the state Workers’ Compensation Board stating that her physical condition prevented her from working.

In 2005, Rivera was arrested by federal authorities and pleaded guilty to income tax fraud, admitting that she helped customers claim overstated or fictional expenses and deductions.

The New York State Insurance Fund discovered she had been improperly collecting workers’ compensation lost wage benefits while she was being investigated by federal authorities for tax fraud.

Rivera was arrested after an investigation by the New York State Insurance Department’s Frauds Bureau, the Insurance Fund and the Economic Crimes Bureau of the office of Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas J. Spota.

If she is convicted, she could be sentenced to up to seven years in prison for workers’ compensation fraud. A hearing will be held in Suffolk County Court.

Source: www.ins.state.ny.us


Former Findlay Clinical Counselor Pleads Guilty to $82,500 Health Care Fraud
Ohio Department of Insurance, Findlay Police Department and Hancock County Prosecutor’s Office Partner in Investigation of John Blain Frankenburg

COLUMBUS — Ohio Department of Insurance Director Mary Jo Hudson announced that a joint investigation by the Ohio Department of Insurance, the Findlay Police Department and the Hancock County Prosecutor’s Office has led to a guilty plea by former Findlay-area clinical counselor John Blain Frankenburg, 50, also known as Blain J. Frankenburg, for fraudulently billing two insurance companies more than $82,500. Frankenburg is scheduled to be sentenced January 27, 2011 in Hancock County Common Pleas Court.

 The Department received a complaint in October 2009 that alleged Frankenburg was seeing patients and billing insurance companies for services he provided although he was no longer licensed to perform such services in the state. In 2004, the State of Ohio Counselor, Social Worker, and Marriage and Family Therapist Board suspended Frankenburg’s license for three years after it was alleged he had a sexual relationship with a patient. He voluntarily surrendered his license in 2007 after he failed to meet the terms of the consent agreement he signed in 2004.

Frankenburg pled guilty to one count of insurance fraud on December 6, 2010 for fraudulently billing the insurance companies from 2004 to 2009.

Source: www.ohioinsurance.gov


US Labor Department's OSHA proposes $51,000 in fines against David H. Koch Theater in New York for asbestos, fall and crushing hazards

NEW YORK – The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited the David H. Koch Theater, located at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in Manhattan, for alleged repeat and serious violations of workplace health and safety standards. The theater faces a total of $51,000 in proposed fines, chiefly for asbestos, fall and crushing hazards identified during an OSHA inspection prompted by worker complaints.

OSHA's inspection found that employees of the theater and of outside contractors had not been informed of the presence of asbestos-containing and potentially asbestos-containing materials in the theater's promenade area and in nearby electrical closets. The materials had not been labeled and asbestos warning signs had not been posted.

In addition, an exit door was stuck and unable to be used, and a portable fire extinguisher was not mounted. As these conditions were similar to those cited by OSHA during a 2009 inspection of the theater, they resulted in the agency issuing the theater four repeat citations with $45,000 in proposed fines. A repeat violation is issued when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years.

"The recurrence of these conditions is disturbing," said Kay Gee, OSHA's Manhattan area director. "For the health and safety of its employees as well as outside contractors, the theater must take effective steps to identify and permanently eliminate these and other hazards identified during this latest OSHA inspection."

OSHA also found that, due to a lack of guarding, theater employees were exposed to falls into the orchestra pit when the stage was raised above the pit, and to being struck or crushed by the stage when it descended into the pit. These conditions, plus the use of temporary wiring in place of permanent lighting in the promenade area, resulted in OSHA also issuing the theater three serious citations with $6,000 in proposed fines. A serious citation is issued when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

"One means of eliminating hazards such as these is for employers to establish an illness and injury prevention program, in which workers and management jointly work to identify and eliminate hazardous conditions on a continual basis," said Robert Kulick, OSHA's regional administrator in New York.

Source: www.osha.gov


TROY WOMAN AGREES TO PAY $33,000 IN RESTITUTION

A Troy woman who was seriously injured when she crashed her car into an unoccupied house admitted Monday that she lied about the accident so she could get insurance benefits to pay for medical expenses and lost wages.

Heidi Laviolette, 42, pleaded guilty to insurance fraud in Rensselaer County Court.

She agreed to make restitution of $33,000 to Geico Insurance Company, receive drug rehabilitation treatment and obtain employment. She could be sentenced to up to seven years in prison if she fails to satisfy the conditions imposed by the court.

Laviolette suffered a broken ankle, a fractured rib and a collapsed lung when she crashed her car late on the night of Nov. 13, 2008 in Sand Lake in Rensselaer County.

She obtained no-fault insurance benefits from Geico after claiming she was a passenger when the accident occurred and not the driver. Under most no-fault policies, a person is ineligible for benefits if driving while being intoxicated or impaired contributed to the cause of an accident.

New York State Insurance Department Frauds Bureau investigators later determined that she had, in fact, been the driver of the car and was intoxicated when the accident occurred.

Source: www.ins.state.ny.us


US Department of Labor's OSHA fines Hondo, Texas, beverage distributor more than $52,000 for failing to provide forklift training to workers

HONDO, Texas – The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Frio Distributing Co. with one alleged willful, nine alleged serious and two alleged other-than-serious violations following a safety and health inspection at the company's facility in Hondo. Proposed penalties total $52,250.

"This company jeopardized the safety of its workers by failing to provide forklift training," said Jeff Funke, OSHA's area director in San Antonio, Texas. "It's imperative that employers adhere to OSHA's safety and health standards to prevent injuries and fatalities by properly training their workers."

OSHA began its inspection on Sept. 10 at the company's facility at 509 Carter and cited the employer with a willful violation for failing to properly train workers in the use of forklifts. A willful violation is one committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.

The serious violations pertain to failing to provide guardrails on elevated working areas; failing to provide proper housekeeping by placing miscellaneous items on the stairway, creating a trip hazard; and electrical deficiencies, including lack of enclosures or guards to prevent damage to electrical components, exposed live conductors, and blocked and unlabeled electrical disconnects. OSHA issues a serious citation when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

Other-than-serious violations were cited for failing to record injuries in the OSHA 300 log and to keep fire exits clear. An other-than-serious violation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm.

Source: www.osha.gov


OFFICER ARRESTED FOR WORKERS’ COMPENSATION FRAUD

A Greene County man employed as a corrections officer and part-time police officer has been arrested for fraudulently accepting $34,000 in workers’ compensation benefits.

The New York State Insurance Department reported that Kevin Schwebke, 26, of First Street, Catskill, was arrested Wednesday on a felony charge of workers’ compensation fraud.

Schwebke started collecting workers’ compensation benefits in 2009 after suffering job-related ankle injuries while working as a corrections officer at the Coxsackie Correctional Facility. During the same time period, he was employed as a part-time police officer with the Town of Cairo Police Department.

Schwebke is accused of accepting workers’ compensation lost wage benefits and falsely stating that his physical condition left him unable to work while he continued working as a police officer. The police department was unaware he was collecting the benefits.

If he is convicted, Schwebke could be sentenced to up to seven years in prison. He was released pending action in Albany County Court.

Source: www.ins.state.ny.us


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