An Akron woman is off to prison for a ten-month stretch and ordered to repay more than $88,000 in restitution for scamming the state's Bureau of Workers' Compensation and Social Security Disability programs as well as a former employer.
Bernice D. Stephens was running her own clothing store while collecting benefits for a workplace injury. She was caught on video tape despite operating the store under another name. A jury found her guilty on fraud charges in December.
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(Bureau of Workers' Compensation) An Akron woman was sentenced on multiple counts after agents with the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) captured video of her running her own clothing store while receiving workers’ comp benefits for a prior workplace injury. Bernice D. Stephens was sentenced March 12 and must repay more than $88,000.
“Ms. Stephens was collecting benefits from the BWC, Social Security Disability and her previous employer,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Steve Buehrer. “She’s been brought to justice and has been ordered to return a staggering amount of money she was never entitled to receive.”
The BWC’s Special Investigations Department opened an investigation after receiving an allegation that Stephens, using the name Naomi Miller, owned and operated a clothing store in Akron. The department was also told she prepared income tax returns out of her home. Agents visited her store, called Devotice, and secretly videotaped as they purchased items from her. She told them she made African garments for weddings and events.
Stephens pleaded not guilty to charges of mail fraud, theft of public funds and false statement, but a jury found her guilty of all three on Dec. 13. She was sentenced to 10 months in jail followed by three years of supervised release. She must pay restitution to the BWC in the amount of $88,705.08, plus a special assessment of $300.