BARTOW BUSINESS OWNER FACING FRAUD CHARGES
An electric company owner is facing felony charges following the 2004 death of a worker who suffered fatal burns after an electrical transformer exploded.
Edward L. Bee, 47, owner of Bee Corp., Incorporated, doing business as Harris Electric, is accused of failing to provide workers’ compensation coverage for the worker, meaning his family may not receive death benefits. Bee was arrested Thursday on a warrant charging him with workers’ compensation fraud and grand theft, both third-degree felonies punishable by up to five years in prison and $5,000 in fines. He was booked into the Polk County Jail with bond set at $2,000.
“This is an especially sad case where a family has to deal with financial burden in addition to their grief,” said Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher, who oversees the Department of Financial Services. “Workers’ compensation coverage ensures workers and their employers, especially those in high-risk jobs, have a safety net in the event of an accident. Employers who break the law and do not provide coverage for their employees cause increased cost and burden on law-abiding businesses.”
The department’s Division of Insurance Fraud conducted the investigation that led to Bee’s arrest. The investigation began in September 2004 when First Financial Leasing, Incorporated of Port Charlotte, contacted the department’s fraud hot line, saying Bee was trying to submit an application for James Blundell after the accident had already occurred. Blundell was working at US Agri-Chemical, Inc., in Ft. Meade, on Sept. 11, 2004, when the accident occurred. He died three days later.
Fraud detectives learned that Bee was paying Blundell and several other part-time employees with a company check and not reporting the payroll to the leasing company. Bee’s company account was subpoenaed and checks for “contract labor” during 2003-2004 were found on a second payroll that was not being reported to the leasing company. This payroll totaled nearly $21,000, and the amount of premium owed would have been just over $2,400.
The Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud, investigates fraud in all types of insurance, including health, life, auto, property and workers’ compensation. To report information about this case or any other possible insurance fraud case, call the department’s Fraud Fighters hotline at 1-800-378-0445. A reward of up to $25,000 may be offered for information leading to a conviction.