A Florida construction company owner has been arrested after allegedly providing fictitious information when applying for workers’ compensation insurance coverage to obtain a lower premium, according to a statement from Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis.
Maria Cristina Romero Zelaya, owner of Miochosis Construction, Inc. is accused of illegally avoiding paying more than $700,000 in premium payments and leaving her employees uninsured and vulnerable to workplace injuries, the statement says.
After receiving a tip that Zelaya may have falsified information, from Aug. 2, 2016 to Aug. 2, 2017, Department of Financial Services (DFS) investigators determined Zelaya cashed hundreds of payroll checks through local money service businesses totaling more than $5 million. The checks were found to be for various types of construction work that she is alleged to have withheld from her insurance company and were not covered by her workers’ compensation insurance policy.
Zelaya reported to her insurance underwriter that her company’s annual payroll was $200,000 and her company provided plastering and stucco services only. Based on this information, DFS reported her workers’ compensation premium was $26,622. DFS said if Zelaya had not withheld her company’s true annual payroll and work description, the amount of her premium would have been $733,549.
Zelaya was arrested by DFS Division of Investigative and Forensic Services (DIFS) investigators and later transported to Duval County Jail Dec. 7, 2017. She has been charged with knowingly concealing payroll, scheme to defraud and acting as an unlicensed money transmitter.
This case will be prosecuted by the Assistant State Attorney Joe Licandro of the Duval County States Attorney’s Office. If convicted, Zelaya could face up to 60 years in prison.
“When companies lie to obtain cheaper, inadequate workers’ compensation policies, staff or property owners are left vulnerable to covering sky-high medical costs if a worker gets injured on the job, and free markets are disrupted by scammers who can underbid their legitimate competitors,” said CFO Patronis.
Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis is a member of Florida’s Cabinet and oversees the Department of Financial Services.
Source: Florida Department of Financial Services
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