A three-day statewide sweep has resulted in 28 arrests of suspects arrested for violations of Florida workers’ compensation laws according to Tom Gallagher, Florida CFO. The sweep is the latest move in a campaign to root out those who cheat the workers compensation system, thus making it more expensive for honest employers to obtain coverage. The investigations and the arrests were carried out by detectives from the Division of Insurance Fraud, Bureau of Workers’ Compensation Fraud, in the Department of Financial Services, which Gallagher oversees.
“Florida employers have seen their workers’ compensation premiums drop for two years in a row and much of the credit for this relief goes to the Division of Insurance Fraud and the Division of Workers’ Compensation,” Gallagher claimed. “Employers and employees who cheat the system are stealing from those who play by the rules and putting them at a competitive disadvantage. We will continue our aggressive efforts to stamp out fraud and help save employers money.”
The majority of the suspects were arrested in the early morning hours at their residences. The individuals were arrested on a variety of counts including submitting fraudulent workers’ compensation claims, forging workers’ compensation documents or exemptions, violating orders to stop work until adequate coverage is obtained, and failure to secure coverage. Most of those arrested are facing third-degree felony charges, which carry a penalty of up to five years in prison per count. However, some individuals are facing charges that carry up to 30 years in prison, and some are on probation for prior violations.
Among those arrested was a claimant who alleged he was disabled following a 1993 on-the-job injury at Georgia Pacific Co. Jimmy Carr, 50, of Jacksonville, stated that he had to use crutches, a cane, a buggy or a wheel chair, and has been able to walk only in his yard or house without using one of these devices. But he was seen on surveillance video removing a basketball stand out of a truck and then shooting baskets. Carr is also seen on video standing on his own to take a wheelchair out of the rear of a vehicle and then sitting in it. He has collected more than $800,000 in insurance benefits.
Also arrested this week was a former insurance agent on probation who continued to conduct insurance business under various unregistered company names – Blue Ocean Insurance Inc., MSG Consulting, G&G Consulting, or Grason Insurance Agency. Detectives said that on at least 20 documented occasions, Michael Stephen Grason, 65, of Winter Park, presented or caused others to present fraudulent documents to state workers’ compensation compliance investigators, contractors and others as “verification” of workers compensation coverage.
This week’s sweep is the department’s latest effort to clean up the workers’ compensation system. In April, investigators from the Division of Workers’ Compensation conducted construction site sweeps in three Florida cities and made contact with over 900 businesses. Over 200 businesses or individuals were issued Stop Work Orders or ordered to produce records.
This year, the Division of Insurance Fraud, Bureau of Workers’ Compensation Fraud, has presented more than 213 cases for prosecution.
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