By Ed Meyer
Beacon Journal staff writer
An Akron woman was sentenced to 10 months in jail and fined more than $88,000 after being convicted of multiple counts of fraud for operating a clothing store while collecting state benefits for a previous workplace injury, authorities said.
Bernice D. Stephens-Miller, 70, was convicted in federal court in December on charges of mail fraud, theft of public funds and making a false statement after state investigators videotaped her running an Akron clothing store, named Divotice, and later purchased items from her, according to a news release Monday by the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation in Columbus.
Melissa Vince, a bureau spokeswoman, said Stephens-Miller remains free on bond while her case is under appeal in the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.
Federal public defender Amy B. Cleary, who represented Stephens-Miller in the criminal case, declined to comment on her client’s status and her appeal.
On Dec. 13, a U.S. District Court jury in Cleveland convicted Stephens-Miller of the three charges in a case that began in December 2010. The bureau opened an investigation after receiving a complaint that she was running her clothing store under the name Naomi Miller and preparing income tax returns out of her home.
She told investigators that she made African garments for weddings and special events, Vince said.
Steve Buehrer, the bureau’s executive director, said Stephens-Miller was collecting compensation benefits from Social Security Disability, the BWC and her previous employer.
As part of the sentencing order by U.S. District Judge Solomon Oliver Jr., Buehrer said she must return “a staggering amount of money she was never entitled to receive.”
The judge ordered Stephens- Miller to pay $88,705.88 in restitution to the BWC and a $300 special assessment.
Ed Meyer can be reached at 330-996-3784 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.