Volume 1 Number 10
March 8, 2004









 

DWC e-Alert

 

 

 

FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF FINANCIAL SERVICES
Division of
Workers' Compensation

 


PENSACOLA COUPLE TO SERVE 27 YEARS IN PRISON FOR FRAUD

A Pensacola couple has been sentenced to serve a collective 27 years in state prison for organized fraud on consumers and suppliers, theft of sales tax monies, workers’ compensation fraud, racketeering and destruction of evidence.  The convictions last month follow a lengthy investigation by the Department of Financial Services and several other local, state, and federal agencies into complaints about the couple’s business, Backyard Sheds.

Billy Schimmel was sentenced as a habitual offender to 20 years in Florida state prison.  His wife Debbie was sentenced to seven and a half years in Florida state prison.  Both were ordered to pay more than  $289,000 in restitution to at least 30 vendors and customers.  The Schimmels were also sentenced to serve 10 years’ probation upon release from prison. The couple was convicted by a trial jury in March 2003. 

“These sentences reflect the seriousness of the fraud and economic damage perpetrated by these individuals,” said Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher.  “This sends a strong message that we will not tolerate anyone taking advantage of Florida’s citizens.”

The Escambia County State Attorney’s Office began receiving complaints in 1999 regarding the Schimmels’ Pensacola-based business operations.   An investigation coordinated among the department’s Division of Insurance Fraud, Escambia County State Attorney’s Office, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and the Department of Revenue disclosed the Schimmels were collecting payments but were not building the contracted sheds.  Investigators also found that the Schimmels were not paying sales tax and were hiding their payroll under various fictitious companies to avoid paying workers’ compensation premiums.

Authorities in Baldwin County, Ala., assisted with the investigation.

The Schimmels’ business office burned during the course of the investigation. The State Fire Marshal’s Office determined the fire was intentionally set, which led to the charge of destruction of evidence.