Florida Workers’ Comp Fraud Sting Ends with 8 Arrests
A multi-agency undercover workers’ compensation sting in Polk County, Fla., led by the Florida Department of Financial Services’ (DFS) Division of Insurance Fraud (DIF), led to the arrests of eight individuals, according to a statement from DFS. The eight individuals caught in the scheme allegedly advertised their ability to perform wide-ranging plumbing and electrical work without proper licenses or training, and without having workers’ compensation coverage to protect their employees in the event of an accident or injury.
During the three-day operation, DIF detectives, accompanied by logistical and tactical support from multiple agencies, established an undercover sting in an effort to stop the illegal practice. Detectives responded to public advertisements allegedly created by the defendants, requesting that they perform services at a specified location in Lakeland.
“Operations like this pull back the curtain on fraud in Florida, showing that if an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” said CFO Jeff Atwater. “Always ask questions, require all offers in writing and verify the credentials of every individual who may provide goods or services before any work begins.”
The arrested individuals include:
- Justin Cortes
- Greatlen Bozeman
- Herbert Vanegas
- Henricus Van Der Linden
- Stuart Rhodes
- Juan Carlos Diaz
- Raymond Figueroa-Garcia
- Raymond Perdue
Multiple agencies participated in the sting, including the Lakeland Police Department, State Attorney’s Office, DFS’ Bureau of Workers’ Compensation Compliance, and the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
DBPR Secretary Ken Lawson said the department will continue to be proactive in its efforts to protect Florida’s consumers and licensed professionals.
“Unlicensed contractors lack the necessary training, qualifications and insurance to complete a job in compliance with building codes and often leave consumers responsible for additional costs to repair substandard work. At DBPR, we’re committed to bringing these unlicensed individuals into compliance with the law and mitigating the potential for consumer harm,” Lawson said.
Lakeland Police Chief Larry Giddens said, “We must be vigilant and continue to crack down on those who are contracting work illegally and working without a license. Unlicensed contractors place our citizens at risk and threaten the livelihood of our law-abiding contractors and their employees”.
Of the eight individuals arrested, seven were booked into Polk County Jail on charges of workers’ compensation fraud and unlicensed contracting. Perdue carried adequate workers’ compensation coverage but failed to hold a business license. He was charged with unlicensed contracting and was also booked into Polk County Jail.
These cases will be prosecuted by the Office of State Attorney Jerry Hill, 10th Judicial Circuit. If convicted, all eight perpetrators face up to five years in prison, more if found to be a repeat offender.