Mother-Daughter Team Arrested for Calif. Workers’ Comp Scam

July 13, 2005

Two Kern County, California farm labor contractors surrendered to authorities July 12 after a two-year investigation found that they had allegedly under-reported their business’ payroll by $1 million. The investigation began after a routine audit by State Compensation Insurance Fund that discovered an altered financial record.

Rosalinda “Rosie” Gonzalez and Sandra Lara, both of McFarland, California, were arraigned in Kern County Superior Court on felony and misdemeanor violations stemming from their operation of Sweet Valley Harvesting, a farm labor contracting business in Bakersfield.

When State Fund identified the alleged unreported payroll, Sweet Valley Harvesting was asked to pay a supplemental bill of approximately $72,000. Gonzalez and Lara, a mother and daughter team, allegedly subsequently closed the business. However, shortly after that, Gonzalez allegedly opened a new firm called Rosie’s Farm Service, using the same employees, equipment, and location. She also reportedly secured workers’ comp coverage with State Fund.

As part of the investigation, the CDI worked with the Kern County District Attorney’s Office and State Fund to obtain payroll documents from a large business that contracted with Rosie’s Farm Service. The documents showed that Gonzalez had allegedly continued to under-report business payroll and misclassify the type of work the employees were doing in her new company. After auditing the payroll of Rosie’s Farm Service, State Fund discovered the company owed more than $64,000 in unpaid workers’ compensation insurance premiums.

Prior to the filing of a criminal complaint, Gonzalez paid $64,000 in workers’ comp insurance premiums for Rosie’s Farm Service, and $13,000 towards the balance owed for Sweet Valley Harvesting. Bail for the pair was set at $7,500 each.

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