Vanessa Arreguin, age 25, of West Palm Beach was charged with two felony counts of application fraud—that is, making fraudulent claims while applying for a policy or service—and three felony counts of concealing payroll.
As owner and president of V&G Concrete Inc., Arreguin claimed her company had made under $50,000 over a two-year period. V&G concrete had, in fact, carried out over $7.5 million in business during that period. By concealing her true payroll, Arreguin was able to avoid paying the $51,000 in workers’ compensation dues.
V&G Concrete is another example of a company underreporting payroll to avoid paying workers’ compensation premiums. In recent months, I have reported on similar cases in California, New York, and Ohio.
“Worker’s compensation fraud puts employees at risk and drives up insurance rates for honest businesses,” explained Florida’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Jimmy Patronis. This kind of fraud places honest businesses at a disadvantage. Since dishonest businesses can undercut the prices of honest ones, it makes it harder for legitimate companies to compete.
This has happened at a time when Florida is reducing its workers’ compensation insurance rates. Effective January 1, 2019, premiums will be reduced on average by 13.4 percent. It will be the third such reduction since 2016. This reflects a downward trend across the nation in premium rates. For example, Delaware is reducing its rates by 9.9 percent.
“Reducing the cost of doing business,” said CFO Patronis, “means additional savings could be passed onto Florida businesses, easing financial burdens.” Even with the reductions, workers’ compensation premiums represent a sizeable overhead for businesses. Even though they have gone down, Florida’s average insurance rates have not decreased as much as the rest of the country. In 2016, 32 states had more expensive insurance premiums than Florida. Today, the average cost of workers compensation is $1.81 for every $100 of payroll. Now, only 20 states are more expensive on average.
This is not the first time in recent months that Florida has been in the news for workers’ compensation fraud. Back in October, I reported on a sting operation in Pasco County that led to the arrest of 20 contractors. Investigators advertised for contractors to work on a house in New Port Richey, then checked on the contractors who applied. The majority of the contractors were operating without a license or workers’ compensation; one had even been convicted of rape, sources indicate. Each of these contractors is facing up to five years in prison.
Arreguin was released on bond after surrendering herself to fraud investigators at Palm Beach County Jail. If she is convicted on all the charges she faces, she could receive up to 20 years in prison.
“Last year alone, our fraud detectives made more than 400 arrests for workers’ compensation fraud,” said CFO Patronis. “I can assure you my office will continue to hold these individuals accountable.”
Florida Workers’ Compensation Fraud Defense Attorney
If you are involved in a worker’s compensation fraud investigation, then you should hire a lawyer. Contact us to set up a free initial consultation and work with one of Florida’s most experienced workers’ compensation fraud defense attorneys.