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Fake comp certificate charges lead to guilty pleas in $54M scheme


Two business owners pleaded guilty to multiple felony counts of insurance fraud and forgery as part of a $54 million workers compensation scheme, the California Department of Insurance reported.

Wesley Owens was owner and chief executive of Bison Workforce Solutions, a professional employer organization based outside of Atlanta. The department said its investigation found the company failed to pay about $29 million in premiums and bilked customers out of $25.5 million in fees they thought they were paying for comp coverage.

The investigation found Mr. Owens would obtain workers compensation insurance for his company, Bison, and then use the documents provided to it by the insurance company to generate fraudulent certificates of insurance, which they would issue to customers, the department said.

“The insurance carrier was told the policy was to cover a small, white-collar firm, not the… customers’ businesses, which included agricultural workers, roofers, limo drivers and a wide variety of other employees,” the department said.

The investigation also found Beau Wilson, who was aware of the fraud, recruited customers for Bison and received commissions for each client that used the fraudulent services. Bison was eventually unable to secure comp coverage from any insurer, at which point it contracted with another firm that already had a comp policy, which Mr. Owens used to generate fake certificates.

“In order to conceal the fact that its policy was being misused to insure (its) customers, Bison began payout out claims itself,” the department said. “When the expense of this was too much for the company to sustain, it eventually stopped paying out claims and left workers uncovered by workers compensation insurance and with no resources after being injured on the job.”

Both men will be sentenced to 10 years of probation and ordered to perform 60 days of community service, the department said. They will also be fined $350,000 each. In addition, both agreed to pay $14.15 million in restitution while on probation.

WorkCompCentral is a sister publication of Business Insurance. More stories here.