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Workers comp beneficiary did not commit fraud working for wife's business: Court


COLUMBUS, Ohio—A man who worked in his wife's business while collecting workers compensation benefits did not commit fraud because he did not know that his actions were defined as work, the Ohio Supreme Court said Tuesday.

Garry McBee sprained his right shoulder in 2004 while working for Blue Ribbon Rentals Inc. of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, and received temporary total disability benefits from October 2004 to March 2006, court records show.

The Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation investigated Mr. McBee's activities during that time and found that he had been working during the disability period for McBee Auto Sales, a used-car business owned by his wife.

Ohio workers comp law prevents claimants from receiving TTD benefits while working. Though Mr. McBee was not paid for his time at McBee Auto Sales, court records show that he was listed as the company's general manager and handled much of the company's finances.

The Industrial Commission of Ohio found that TTD benefits should not have been paid to Mr. McBee and that he had committed fraud by submitting disability paperwork that certified he was not working. An appellate court upheld the decision regarding payment of benefits, but said that Mr. McBee did not commit fraud.

In a unanimous decision, the Ohio Supreme Court agreed that Mr. McBee did not commit fraud, even though he should not have received TTD benefits. While his actions generated income for his family, the court said Mr. McBee did not know that his time at McBee Auto Sales was defined as work under Ohio law.

“Our examination of the evidence reveals nothing from which we can infer that McBee recognized that the activities in question could be construed as work,” the ruling reads. “If McBee was asked at (a) hearing whether he knew that work included some unpaid activities, the commission’s order does not reflect it.”