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Tampa, Florida – U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle has sentenced Mayra Velasquez (35, Apopka) to three years and five months in federal prison for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to defraud the United States and the Internal Revenue Service. The Court also entered an order of forfeiture in the amount of $600,752, and an order for the forfeiture of three properties in Polk County, all as part of the proceeds of the conspiracies. Velasquez had pleaded guilty on March 9, 2022.
According to court documents, Velasquez owned and managed a construction company which purported to supply construction services and labor for construction contractors and subcontractors. In order to comply with Florida law, Velasquez’s company was required to secure and maintain adequate worker’s compensation insurance coverage. Velasquez’s company had agreements with contractors and subcontractors to use workers purported to be Velasquez’s employees at construction sites and these workers were often undocumented aliens who were actually working for and under the daily supervision and direction of the contractors. Velasquez or others then regularly received “payroll checks” from contractors that they cashed at various financial institutions to pay Velasquez’s purported “employees” and other related expenses.
During the time period charged, Velasquez falsely and fraudulently represented in insurance applications that her company had a very limited payroll and a very limited number of employees who worked on construction jobsites. Velasquez also falsely and fraudulently sent wire communications to numerous contractors representing that her company’s employees had full worker’s compensation coverage.
In reality, Velasquez’s company received and cashed more than $7 million in checks from various construction contractors for these purported “employees.” These payroll figures far exceeded the very limited payroll figures that Velasquez had reported to her worker’s compensation insurance company. As a result, these employees, in reality the employees of other entities, performed work on jobsites without adequate insurance coverage. In addition, the insurance companies that dealt with Velasquez’s company lost premiums they would have charged had they been aware of the true number of workers their policies were thus being manipulated to cover. The loss to those insurers was almost $750,000 in insurance premiums that were not paid.
As a result of these misrepresentations, Velasquez’s company also disclaimed responsibility for ensuring that jobsite workers were legally authorized to work in the United States and evaded laws that required the payment of state and federal payroll taxes on behalf of these workers. Velasquez’s company did not collect or remit any such payroll taxes to the United States. In addition, the contractors who actually paid these workers’ wages and used their services were also able to avoid responsibility for those taxes as well. The amount of those unpaid payroll taxes totaled more than $1.769 million.
“Velasquez engaged in a scheme which benefitted her at the expense of every U.S. Taxpayer,” said IRS CI Special Agent in Charge Brian Payne. “This scheme is all too common in the construction industry and IRS CI is working hard to ensure all employers operate on an even playing field and according to the law.”
Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis said, “Workers’ compensation fraud will not be tolerated in Florida. It puts businesses and injured workers in jeopardy and drives up insurance costs for honest business owners who properly protect their employees.”
“This fraudster was responsible for a scheme to evade worker’s compensation premiums and avoid paying employment taxes, resulting in illicit profits and proceeds in the millions of dollars,” said Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Tampa Assistant Special Agent in Charge John Dumas. “HSI is proud to partner with the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation and the State of Florida Department of Financial Services to hold criminals accountable for taking advantage of government, private industry, and America’s workforce.”
This case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation and the Florida Department of Financial Services Division of Investigative and Forensic Services Bureau of Insurance Fraud, with assistance from Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). It is part of a lengthy investigation by those agencies into the use of shell companies and “ghost” employees in the construction industry. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jay L. Hoffer.
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