Indiana/Kentucky/Ohio Carpenters Regional Council Members Charged with Benefit Fraud

carpenters-logoCollecting reimbursements under false pretenses has become a common scam in union-sponsored health care plans.  The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners doesn’t have to be reminded of that.  On August 19, five members of the union’s Indiana/Kentucky/Ohio Regional Council were charged in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana with one-count informations of theft of funds from the council health care fund.  Were that not enough, on August 30, six more union members were charged with the same offenses.  The charges follow an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Inspector General and Employee Benefits Security Administration.

According to the first round of prosecutions, Bradley Crostreet, Dennis Gardner, Robert Gutierrez, Aaron Vaughan and Joshua Westfall – illegally enriched themselves at the expense of the Regional Council Welfare Fund.  The defendants allegedly submitted fraudulent health care reimbursement claims, including a copy of an uncashed personal check.  Though these documents appeared legitimate, they weren’t.  Welfare fund staffers processed the requests anyway.  Eventually, council audits revealed missing funds.  On August 19, the five defendants were charged with an information count in the following respective amounts:  Crostreet ($10,310.83); Gardner ($15,000); Gutierrez ($19,771); Vaughan ($13,000); and Westfall ($6,380).  That adds up to more than $65,000.  Each defendant is an Indiana resident.  Eleven days later, federal prosecutors announced similar charges for six additional members:  Ryan Cundiff, Brian Ellis, Christopher LeBell, Aaron Merkel, Eric Murray and Daniel Rehfelt.  The Justice Department did not provide any dollar figures for this round.  Five of these defendants, save for Murray (who lives in Ohio), are residents of Indiana.  It may not be wise to bet against more cases existing in the Carpenters’ Indiana/Kentucky/Ohio regional pipeline.