Volume 3 Number 7
February 13, 2006

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MULTI-AGENCY TASKFORCE ANNOUNCES DETAILS OF OPERATION MONEY TRAIL

The Department of Financial Services – Division of Insurance Fraud, together with investigators with Broward County Sheriff Ken Jenne, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, and Office of the Statewide Prosecutor have announced several arrests as part of Operation Money Trail.

Operation Money Trail is a year-long, ongoing investigation into a multi-million dollar scheme to launder money through bogus shell construction companies, and undermine the ability of honest workers and construction companies to compete throughout South Florida.

“This was a large-scale, highly organized scheme,” said Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher, who oversees the Department of Financial Services and Division of Insurance Fraud. “Those involved in this scam should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

According to investigators, the first step in the conspiracy included setting up bogus construction companies. These companies had no employees, no equipment, and their owners never had any intention of building anything but their own bank accounts. These fake companies would obtain worker’s compensation insurance, and head out into the workplace to take work away from legitimate laborers working for legitimate construction companies.

These bogus companies would buy the cheapest worker’s compensation insurance they could find just to be able to give a contractor proof of insurance. The alleged scheme was designed to generate illegal profits for the shell companies, the contractors that hired the shell companies, as well as unscrupulous check cashing stores that were in on the conspiracy.

As a result of Operation Money Trail, approximately $1,000,000 has been frozen in several accounts, and approximately $950,000 in cash has been seized.

The contractor would be asked to write a substantial check to the shell company for work the shell company never had any intention of doing. The representatives of the shell companies would then take that check to a check cashing store. The check cashing store would cash the check made out to what was known to be a bogus company, and take a 5% cut of the total for itself. Then the store would give the cash to the bogus company. The bogus company would also take a cut of the money, but then give the remainder back to the original contractor who wrote the check. That contractor would then arrange for under-the-table laborers to be hired to do the work, and keep the remainder of the cash.

“This type of conspiracy hurts every honest person working hard to try to makes ends meet,” said Broward County Sheriff Ken Jenne. “Legitimate workers, many of them small mom-and-pop operations just can’t compete with the low bids, and offers of illegal cash profits promised by these scam companies. It’s the honest workers that are victims, but it’s also anyone who is living in a home built by the unskilled, substandard, illegally paid workers that are hired by these scam artists.”

Following a series of raids, and undercover operations, the following individuals have been arrested as part of Operation Money Trail:

Francisco Nunes. Charged with one count of racketeering, and one count of conspiracy to commit racketeering. Arrested Thursday morning after a raid on his home at 9851 Orange Park Trail, Boca Raton. Nunes, say investigators, is believed to be the main player involved in the creation of the bogus shell companies. Among the items seized at his home included stamps, checkbooks, and signature authorization forms linked to the shell company.

Marco Delgado. Charged with one count of racketeering, and one count of conspiracy to commit racketeering. Arrested Thursday morning at 1145 West Camino Real, Boca Raton. Investigators say Delgado was brought into the conspiracy by Nunes, and was a courier involved in obtaining insurance certificates for the shell companies.

Edigar Neves. Charged with one count of racketeering, and one count of conspiracy to commit racketeering. Arrested on the 1200 block of 33rd street in Pompano Beach. Investigators say Neves was a involved in the signing and cashing of the checks made out to the bogus companies.

Following an undercover operation during which a detective was able to cash a check made out to one of the shell companies at a check cashing store, the following arrest was made:

Amjad Shafiq Abuzahra. Charged with one count of racketeering, and one count of conspiracy to commit racketeering. Arrested at Atlantic Check Cashing located at 2751 West Atlantic Boulevard.