Two Florida 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 reportedly caught working without the required coverage and had no prior or current exemption. Failure to secure workers’ comp 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 reportedly 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 reported to have been found performing concrete work with four employees. Cooper nor his company had a valid workers’ comp insurance policy. Cooper was arrested for failure to secure workers’ comp 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’ comp coverage status. This free service is available at www.fldfs.com/wc by clicking on the “Construction Policy Tracking Database” icon.
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