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A Jacksonville, Florida, construction company owner who allegedly provided fictitious information when applying for workers compensation insurance coverage to obtain a lower premium was arrested Dec. 7, the state’s Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis announced Wednesday.
Investigators received a tip that Maria Cristina Romero Zelaya, owner of Miochosis Construction Inc., may have falsified information from Aug. 2, 2016, to Aug. 2, 2017. Department of Financial Services investigators determined Ms. Zelaya cashed hundreds of payroll checks through local money service businesses totaling more than $5 million. The checks were found to be for various types of construction work that she withheld from her insurance company and were not covered by her workers compensation insurance policy, leaving her employees vulnerable, according to the press release.
Ms. Zelaya reported to her insurance underwriter that her company’s annual payroll was $200,000 and her company provided plastering and stucco services only. Based on this false information, her workers compensation premium was $26,622. Had Ms. Zelaya disclosed her real annual payroll figures, the amount of her premium would have been $733,549, investigators said.
“When companies lie to obtain cheaper, inadequate workers compensation policies, staff or property owners are left vulnerable to covering sky-high medical costs if a worker gets injured on the job, and free markets are disrupted by scammers who can underbid their legitimate competitors," said Mr. Patronis in a press statement.
If convicted, Ms. Zelaya could face up to 60 years in prison.
The owner of a construction firm in Palm Beach, Florida, was arrested this month after an alleged attempt to operate a shell company with the “sole intent of circumventing the state’s workers’ compensation laws,” Florida’s chief financial officer, Jimmy Patronis, announced on Monday.