W. Va. Resident Charged in Comp Fraud

December 6, 2004

A Barbour County, West Virginia man has pleaded guilty to a felony charge of receiving workers’ compensation benefits to which he was not entitled.

Bryon Curtis of Belington entered the plea last week in Upshur County Circuit Court. Judge Thomas Keadle sentenced him to a suspended one- to 10-year prison term, and ordered that Curtis be placed on five years of probation and make restitution of $7,354.20 to the West Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission.

Upshur County Prosecutor Alex Ross obtained six felony indictments against Curtis in September. Those included the charge to which he pleaded guilty, as well as five counts of falsifying reports. Curtis was accused of continuing to receive temporary total disability benefits from Workers’ Compensation while working for Triangle Service in Buckhannon, where he conducted state vehicle inspections, between June 1, 2002 and April 23, 2003.

Curtis began receiving TTD benefits after suffering an injury in September 1998 while working as a diesel mechanic for a local business. Thomas Linkous of the Workers’ Compensation’s Office of Inspector General prosecution unit noted that the Commission did not seek repayment of the medical benefits Curtis received to treat the original injury.

In other legal developments last week, the state Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Workers’ Compensation Commission and reinstated an indictment against Myra Lea Angell on 12 counts of fraud.

Angell is accused of wrongfully obtaining $140,000 from the Commission over a period of several years. She allegedly continued to collect WCC benefits related to the death of a former husband while concealing the fact of two subsequent marriages. Angell’s lawyers sought to dismiss the indictment because an attorney paid by the Commission, acting as an assistant prosecutor in Kanawha County, presented evidence to the grand jury that handed up the charges. A lower court had granted the dismissal, and the Commission appealed to the Supreme Court. A status conference in that case is scheduled this week in Kanawha County Circuit Court.

A separate civil action challenging the Commission’s statewide prosecutorial powers granted in 2003’s landmark reform legislation, Senate Bill 2013, remains pending in Kanawha Circuit Court. The West Virginia Prosecuting Attorneys Association filed that challenge in November 2003.

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