First shirt tracks fraud as civilian investigator

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Julie Weckerlein
  • 445th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
He's a first shirt by weekend; a civilian fraud investigator by weekday.

Master Sgt. John Koehl, 445th Logistics Readiness Squadron first sergeant, works as a special agent for the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation. While the bureau investigates everything from crooked doctors to employers not paying benefits, Sergeant Koehl and his team focus on injured workers fraud.

"People typically associate injured workers' fraud as the news video of the guy roofing a house though he's claimed a back injury," said Sergeant Koehl, "but most of my cases don't make the news."

According to the Ohio BWC, under Ohio law, worker's compensation fraud occurs when a person receives workers' compensation benefits to which he or she is not entitled; makes false or misleading statements with the purpose of securing goods or services under the Workers' Compensation Act; alters, falsifies, destroys, conceals or removes records or documents necessary to establish the validity of a claim, or necessary to establish the nature of goods and services for which reimbursement is requested in a claim; enters into an agreement for conspiracy to defraud BWC or a self-insuring employer by making false claims for disability benefits.

His career as an investigator started more than 20 years ago, when he enlisted in the Air Force Reserve here as part of the 906th Fighter Group security forces. He continued in security forces when the 906th FG became the 445th Airlift Wing in the mid-1990s. He also attended Ohio State University to get his degree in law enforcement.

"My military experience and education always correlated to my civilian employment and education," he said. Even when his family moved to Texas so his wife could attend graduate school, he continued his Reserve career at Kelly Air Force Base near San Antonio and worked on the police force at his wife's university. When they returned to Ohio, he rejoined his former unit as the first sergeant of the 445th Security Forces Squadron and started working at the bureau.

"I no longer arrest or book people, but all that experience plays into my current job as we research and investigate those suspected of fraud," he said. "It's not uncommon for each investigator on my team to bring in $1 million in savings for the state each year."
Sergeant Koehl, who was recently named 445th AW first sergeant of the year, transferred from the security forces squadron to the logistics side of the house. Though the unit's mission is different, his job as a first shirt has not.

"Being a first sergeant is much more multi-faceted than being a fraud investigator," he said. "As a first shirt, I'm working for what is best for the Air Force, the commander and the Airmen. As an investigator, it's pretty cut and dry: the law is the law. When it comes to dealing with Airmen, though, there is a lot more compassion involved. It helps that my training in law enforcement and investigation prepared me for handling different people from different backgrounds. I can pull from both my military and civilian experiences to better reach people as a first shirt."