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Two Arrested in Workers’ Comp Fraud Sweep

2/11/2004

CONTACT: Nina Banister
(850) 413-2842

OKEECHOBEE-Two men are facing workers' compensation fraud charges after insurance fraud investigators with the Department of Financial Services conducted investigations of numerous construction sites in and around Okeechobee on Monday.

Investigators with the Division of Insurance Fraud, Bureau of Workers' Compensation Fraud, said James I. Vernon, 33, of Ft. Pierce, and Barry L. Cooper, 42, of Loxahatchee, were caught working without the required coverage and had no prior or current exemption. Failure to secure workers' compensation insurance is punishable by up to five years in prison and fines.

"Employers who avoid paying workers' compensation premiums contribute to the rise in workers' compensation rates and gain an unfair advantage over competitors," Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher said. "We will continue to aggressively investigate instances of fraud and abuse of the workers' compensation system."

Vernon was found working alone as a subcontractor for A. Lee Construction, Inc. He was charged with failure to secure workers' compensation insurance.

Cooper, owner of Solid Rock Excavating, Inc., was found performing concrete work with four employees. Cooper nor his company had a valid workers' compensation insurance policy. Cooper was arrested for failure to secure workers' compensation insurance.

A new online database has been developed to send automatic electronic notification to primary contractors who sign up for the service, concerning changes to a subcontractor's workers' compensation coverage status. This free service is available at www.fldfs.com/wc by clicking on the "Construction Policy Tracking Database" icon.

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 or another possible fraud scheme should call the department's Fraud Busters Hotline at 1-800-378-0445. A reward of up to $25,000 may be offered for information leading to a conviction.