CFO Atwater Announces Conviction of Jacksonville Man in Elaborate Workers’ Comp Fraud Scheme, Illegal Check Cashing Operation
Contact: Alexis Lambert
TALLAHASSEE – Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater announced today the conviction of a Jacksonville man in an elaborate workers’ compensation fraud scheme. David Rodriguez Socarras appeared before the Fourth Judicial Circuit Court Monday and pled guilty to five charges, including application fraud and workers’ compensation fraud, for running a “shell company” to pay undocumented workers and avoiding workers’
compensation premiums. Socarras was sentenced to four years in prison and ordered to pay more than $400,000 in restitution.
“Employers who commit workers’ compensation fraud put workers at risk and drive up premiums for all businesses, and it will not be tolerated,” said CFO Atwater. “This conviction is an acknowledgment of the hard work and dedication of our fraud investigators. Not only are we going to track down these fraudsters, but we are developing strong cases that will get them off the streets and behind bars where they belong.”
An investigation by the Florida Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud, revealed that in October 2007, Socarras used a fraudulent Social Security card and birth certificate to obtain an ID card with the alias Harry Marrero Vasquez. He then established a shell company with the name HMV Construction in order to obtain a minimal workers’ compensation policy. With the insurance policy in hand, Socarras proceeded to cash 80 checks at a Jacksonville check cashing store for a total of more than $2.9 million. The cash was used to pay groups of undocumented workers, and by using the shell company, Socarras avoided paying the necessary workers’ compensation premiums and taxes needed for a payroll of that size.
In response to CFO Atwater’s continued crackdown on insurance fraud in Florida, investigators have arrested 529 fraudsters since the start of the year, including 147 workers’ compensation fraud arrests.
The Division of Insurance Fraud investigation was assisted by the department’s Division of Workers’ Compensation, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. The case was prosecuted by Assistant State Attorney Joseph Licandro from the Office of State Attorney Angela Corey.
Anyone with information about these or any other incidents of suspected insurance fraud is asked to call 1-800-378-0445. Individuals who provide tips can remain anonymous and are eligible for a reward of up to $25,000 for information that directly leads to an arrest and conviction in an insurance fraud scheme. The Department of Financial Services to date has awarded almost $250,000 to approximately 40 citizens as part of its Anti-Fraud Reward Program.
Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, a statewide elected official and officer of the Florida Cabinet, oversees the Department of Financial Services including the Division of Insurance Fraud. CFO Atwater’s priorities include fighting financial fraud, abuse and waste in government, reducing government spending and regulatory burdens that chase away businesses, and providing transparency and accountability in spending.