Middletown man sentenced for workers comp fraud

COLUMBUS, OH (FOX19) - An Ohio man has been sentenced for owning and operating a business in Arizona while receiving temporary total disability benefits for a work-related injury.

Robert Harnage, formerly of Middletown, Ohio, will have to pay the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) $67,000 in restitution after pleading guilty to one count of workers compensation fraud.

"BWC and its partners vow to continue to seek out fraud to protect Ohio's economy," said Stephen Buehrer, BWC CEO/Administrator.  "We will not hesitate to reach across state lines in the pursuit of workers' compensation fraud. As this case proves, for those who abuse the system, the consequences will be severe."

BWC opened the investigation into Harnage after receiving an anonymous tip and discovered the Arizona Registrar of Contractors had investigated his activities there and found him guilty of operating without a contractor's license. This information conflicted with Harnage's submission of signed documentation to BWC confirming his understanding that he was prohibited from working or operating a business while receiving temporary total disability benefits.

BWC agents conducted interviews of Harnage's customers, who confirmed that he actively participated in the day-to-day operations of the business, including providing estimates for all jobs, assisting with physical labor and supervising his crew.  Agents also identified 149 checks written from customers to Harnage for his work as a contractor and determined he received benefits for which he was ineligible over a three-year period.

Harnage was indicted in September, 2009, but failed to appear and a warrant was issued for his arrest.  The BWC SID Fugitive Task Force coordinated with the Cochise Sheriff's Department in Arizona and Harnage was arrested at work.

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