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Bay County Commissioner Arrested in Lynn Haven, FL, on Workers’ Comp Fraud, Misconduct Charges

sebastian-pichler-bAQH53VquTc-unsplash-300x200Authorities in Panama City, FL, arrested three people accused of committing workers’ compensation fraud on Tuesday. There is a pending arrest warrant for a fourth individual, sources indicate.

One of the individuals arrested was Bay County Commissioner Keith Baker, who is the owner of Tri-State Climate Solutions LLC. The county commissioner faces charges of workers’ compensation fraud, bid tampering, and official misconduct. He was booked into Bay County Jail. Attorney information wasn’t available at the time of writing.

The other three were identified as Dennis Morin, 56, owner of Morin and Sons LLC; Gregory Wilson, 48, owner of Greg Wilson Law LLC; and John Russell, 31, of Alabama, and owner of Russell Endeavors LLC. They are each charged with one count of workers’ compensation fraud.

According to the Bay County Sheriff’s Office, the charges against the four men are the result of a corruption investigation into debris removal work conducted in the City of Lynn Haven during the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in October 2018. The work, which was contracted to Erosion Control Specialists (ECS), Inc., included removing hurricane debris, tree debris, and household garbage from roadways and culverts. It was paid for by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

ECS reportedly subcontracted the work to the companies owned by the defendants. During the investigation into suspected corruption, investigators learned that those four companies didn’t pay workers’ compensation coverage, federal income taxes, or Social Security taxes during the period in question.

The additional charges against the county commissioner stem from allegations that he rigged a demolition bid in favor of ECS in March 2018, when he was the leisure services director for the City of Panama City. Investigators allegedly found a series of incriminating texts between Baker and ECS, which culminated with ECS sending in and winning a bid for the demolition job on 1412 Martin Luther King Blvd.

Around seven months after the demolition job was awarded to ECS, the accused county commissioner left his job with Panama City and his company, Tri-State Climate Solutions, was almost immediately contracted by ECS to do trash pickup in Lynn Haven. He was purportedly paid $150,000 by ECS for six weeks of work. The result of this investigation led to his charges of bid tampering by a public servant and official misconduct.

“We are disappointed to learn of the charges filed against Keith by the state, and we are certain justice will be forthcoming,” Philip Griffits, chairman of the Bay County Commission, said in a statement. “Despite this troubling situation, the Bay County Commission and its hundreds of dedicated employees will continue to work hard every day to serve the public with honor and integrity.”

The former commissioner resigned from his county seat after his arrest on June 23. The other three defendants have a court appearance scheduled on August 3. The other accused person has not yet been apprehended.

Any business owner being investigated for workers’ comp fraud by the Florida Division of Insurance Fraud should immediately consult an experienced attorney who can review the case and mount an appropriately aggressive defense.

Miami Workers’ Compensation Fraud Attorney

Are you accused of workers’ comp fraud in Florida? Contact Brian Silber, P.A. for a free initial consultation with one of Miami’s most experienced workers’ compensation fraud defense attorneys.

Source: 6.23.20 Bay County Commissioner arrested on fraud, misconduct charges.pdf

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