Third Conspirator Convicted in Family-Run Check Cashing Fraud Scheme

By Jim Sams | January 4, 2024

A third conspirator has been sentenced to prison for her participation in a Florida check-cashing scheme that used shell companies to defraud the Internal Revenue Service and workers’ compensation insurers out of millions of dollars in payroll taxes and workers’ compensation premiums.

Gabriela Inamagua, 29, was sentenced Tuesday to one year and one day in prison. Inamagua’s father and her father’s former girlfriend were convicted of similar crimes in 2022.

U.S. District Judge Virginia M. Hernandez Covington recommended that Inamagua serve her sentence in the same low-security institution where her father is doing time. She was ordered to pay more than $14 million in restitution.

“The construction industry as a whole suffers when fraudsters exploit the system by creating fictitious shell companies to illegally pay workers off the books in order to scam insurance companies and avoid employment taxes,” stated IRS Acting Special Agent in Charge Tara K. Reed. “Today’s sentencing is a reminder that all businesses and employees are responsible for their fair share of taxes.”

Federal prosecutors say Inamagua owned and managed two companies based in Davenport, Florida, “Uno Construction” and “Perfect Builders Group,” that purported to supply services and labor for construction contractors and subcontractors. She reported to workers’ compensation insurers that together her companies had only 15 employees and annual payroll of $460,000.

Inamagua, however, made agreements with other construction companies to pose as the employer of the workers that those companies sent out to job sites, according to the criminal charges filed in federal court.

Inamagua’s companies cashed more than $34 million in checks from contractors. The money was used to pay workers — many of whom were undocumented — in cash. Inamagua took a percentage of each payment in exchange for allowing the companies to use her insurance certificate to make it appear that their workers were covered by workers’ compensation insurance.

According to a restitution order, the scheme allowed Inamagua and the other conspirators to avoid $8.9 million in payroll taxes. She was ordered to reimburse the IRS for that amount and also pay $3.4 million to Builders Mutual Insurance Co. and $1.9 million to Florida Citrus Business & Industry.

Inamagua’s father, 58-year-old Guillermo Inamagua, was sentenced in July 2022 to three years and 10 months in prison for managing a similar scheme. According to charging papers, Guillermo Inamagua owned “First Construction.” He told insurers that he had only six employees and had an annual payroll of $90,000, according to charging papers.

As part of his sentence, Inamagua forfeited to the government two houses and a vacant lot that he owned in Davenport.

Prosecutors say the elder Guillermo used his company to cash $19 million in payroll checks from various contractors. The scheme allowed him and his co-conspirators to avoid $4,670,000 million in payroll taxes and $1,460,000 in workers’ compensation premiums, prosecutors said.

Guillermo’s former girlfriend, 35-year-old Mayra Velasquez, was also sentenced to prison for the same type of check-cashing scheme. Velasquez was owner of “Best Construction,” a shell company that received and cashed $7 million in payroll checks, according to court documents. The scheme avoided $1,769,000 in payroll taxes and $750,000 in insurance premiums, prosecutors said.

Velasquez was sentenced in April 2022 to three years and five months in prison and ordered to pay $2,519,560 in restitution.

Velasquez is also facing criminal charges filed last September after an investigation by the Florida Department of Financial Services. She is one of seven people charged in that case, which the department said was a check cashing scheme that concealed more than $40 million in payroll taxes.

Velasquez is serving her prison sentence at the Marianna Federal Correctional Institution. Guillermo Inamagua is serving his sentence at the low-security Coleman FCI.

Judge Covington recommended that Inamagua’s daughter also be allowed to serve her sentence at Coleman and participate in a program that allows inmates to learn marketable job skills.

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