ARRESTS IN THREE SEPARATE WORKERS’ COMPENSATION FRAUD CASES
Tom Gallagher, Florida’s chief financial officer, has announced the arrests
of three individuals in Central Florida on workers’ compensation fraud
charges, including one employer who did not have coverage for a worker who
died after falling from a high-rise construction project.
Harry M. Zeigler, 42, president of Zeigler Concrete & Reinforcing, Inc.,
(Zeigler) located in Chuluota, surrendered Thursday on charges of knowingly
omitting or concealing material information for the purpose of avoiding,
delaying, or diminishing the amount of workers’ compensation premiums due.
The charges stem from an investigation led by Det. Greg Whipple of the
Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud (DIF).
“We are determined to ensure that employers comply with the law and that
appropriate action is taken against those who do not,” said Gallagher, who
oversees the department. “Compliance is critical for the welfare of our
workforce and the economy of this state.”
Arrests and other compliance efforts by the department, along with laws
passed in 2003 that created tougher penalties for workers’ compensation
fraud, have pushed workers’ compensation premiums down more than 30 percent.
A fourth drop of 13.3 percent is pending.
Zeigler’s employee died in April 2005 from injuries sustained from the fall.
Fraud detectives discovered that the deceased was never reported as an
employee to Bridgefield Insurance, Zeigler’s worker’s compensation carrier.
At a job site at Shingle Creek in Orlando, detectives interviewed about 20
employees who reported they had been working for Zeigler anywhere from three
months to six years. An audit dated May 18, 2005, revealed that several of
the employees, including the deceased, had been reported to Bridgefield
Insurance as subcontractors rather than employees. The payroll Zeigler
reported during the audit was $331,207. Almost three weeks later,
Bridgefield was informed that not all payroll had been reported and a second
audit was conducted. The revised audit revealed a $983,038 payroll.
Had this difference in payroll not been detected, Zeigler would have avoided
nearly $100,000 in workers’ compensation insurance premiums. Zeigler was
booked into the Orange County Jail. The charges are being prosecuted by the
Office of Statewide Prosecution.
In another case, detectives with the Orlando DIF office arrested Larry Alvin
Jackson Sr., 67, owner of Jaxon Painting, Inc., for presenting fictitious
certificates of insurance to a Jacksonville-area construction company that
hired Jackson’s company as a painting subcontractor for central Florida area
DIF’s investigation, led by Det. Neil McDonald, revealed that Jackson did
not have the workers’ compensation insurance coverage he claimed to have on
the fictitious certificates, and that he obtained the insurance certificate
of an unrelated innocent company and allegedly used that company’s
legitimate policy references to create a fictitious certificate for his own
Jackson surrendered on the charges on Sept. 29 and was booked into the
Orange County Jail. The charges are being prosecuted in Orange County by the
State Attorney's Office, 9th Judicial Circuit of Florida.
In a third case, DIF detectives arrested Norberto Legarreta, 54, on Sept. 25
on charges of workers’ compensation claim fraud and perjury.
Legarreta, of Deltona, allegedly failed to disclose that he had been
receiving ongoing chiropractic care for previous back and leg pain for
nearly 15 years and denied receiving chiropractic care given just days
before a 2004 workers' compensation injury. Detectives said Legarreta also
concealed the fact that the Social Security Administration listed him as
disabled and paid him disability benefits from 1991 to 2000 due to his back
Detectives said he also denied being a little league umpire, which was
caught on video and in records showing that he worked the 2005 and 2006
little league seasons and earned almost $1,000. FCCI Insurance Group (FCCI)
and the Professional Business Owners Association (PBOA) paid him almost
Legarreta was booked into the Seminole County Jail. The charges are being
prosecuted in Seminole County by the State Attorney's Office, 18th Judicial
Circuit of Florida. Detective Kurt Harmon was DIF’s case investigator.
The Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud,
investigates various forms of fraud in insurance, including health, life,
auto, property and workers' compensation insurance. Anyone with information
about this case is asked to 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 an arrest and conviction.