West Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission Executive Director Gregory Burton announced that a former Kentucky state police officer has been convicted in Kanawha County Circuit Court of felony workers’ compensation fraud.
This is the first felony conviction in Circuit Court under the helm of the newly created Commission, which became a standalone agency on Oct. 1, 2003.
Sturl R. Waybright, III of Louisa, Ky., is reported to have repeatedly signed false affidavits for wage replacement benefits certifying that he was unable to work, while he was in fact employed as an over-the-road truck driver. Waybright pled guilty to and was convicted of count two of the indictment: “Workers’ Compensation Fraud; Material False Statement to Workers’ Compensation.”
According to Burton, Waybright was ordered to complete restitution to the Commission in the amount of $16,000.00, which represents the full amount of the fraudulent payments. Following the reading of his verdict, Waybright made the payment in full to the Commission.
Prior to his conviction, Waybright had filed a petition in the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals seeking an injunction to keep the trial from going forward.
In his petition, he challenged the way the prosecution was conducted, claiming it was “prosecutorial misconduct” for Kanawha County Prosecuting Attorney Mike Clifford’s to employ assistant prosecutors whose salaries were paid by the Commission. Waybright had made the same challenge before Kanawha County Circuit Judge Tod Kaufman, who sided with Clifford and Burton, ruling that the procedure was proper.
The Supreme Court denied the petition on March 10, which cleared the way for the case to proceed in Kanawha County Circuit Court. As part of the Circuit Court’s Findings of Fact, the Court found, “The assistant prosecutor in this case, …, has conferred with and taken guidance from Kanawha County First Assistant Prosecutor Philip Morrison regarding disposition of this case, but has not received any such direction from his Workers’ Comp supervisors.”
Burton praised the cooperative effort between the Kanawha County Prosecuting Attorney’s office and the Commission’s Office of Inspector General.
“We have asked Mr. Clifford to prosecute appropriate cases to the fullest extent of the law. A felony conviction carries life long consequences, including the inability to possess a firearm, and disqualification from holding many professional licenses, not to mention the possibility of a penitentiary sentence. We are grateful to Mr. Clifford for his cooperation in these prosecutions,” Burton stated.
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