Companies hiring illegal employees and/or paying employees under the table has been an ongoing problem for years. But when Gabriel Gonzalez died on the job in 2007 by his body accidentally going through a wood chipper, it would help investigators uncover a series of fraudulent crimes committed by company owner Jose Luis Guerrero.
Guerrero, former owner of the California landscaping business, was arraigned on fraud charges on October 11th after he filed a workers’ compensation insurance claim with the state to collect benefits for Gonzalez’s family. The Orange County District Attorney’s office (OCDA) alleged that for four years beginning in March 2005, Guerrero underreported his payroll to the state insurance fund by over $2 million to avoid paying higher workers’ compensation premiums. The OCDA also accused him of illegally paying these funds to employees in cash.
By cheating the system, Guerrero denied his employees the benefit of state unemployment as well as disability insurance. The OCDA is also accusing him of avoiding state taxes, in addition to collecting on insurance claims for employees he never paid premiums to cover, including one who sustained serious injuries in a work-related car crash in May 2007.
Guerrero is being charged with 20 felony counts of failing to file a return with intent to evade taxes, 20 felony counts of willfully failing to pay taxes, 6 felony charges for misrepresenting fact to the State Compensation Insurance Fund (SCIF), 2 felony counts of making fraudulent statements and 1 felony count of possession of an assault weapon, discovered when the state reviewed his business, Jose Martinez Tree Service, Inc. Guerrero faces up to 31 years in state prison with sentencing enhancements and allegations for aggravated white collar crime over $500,000, property loss over $200,000 and causing over $100,000 in loss.
The Fraud Dog says: “At least this senseless death of a man did not go in vain, and the employer had to pay. Some employers don’t care about their employees, cutting corners, not following OSHA, and paying workers in cash to avoid paying State unemployment tax and insurance premiums. More must be done to catch employers who put workers at risk for their own personal gain.” Linda Webb – host of Fraud Dog TV, a reality show similar in format to America’s Most Wanted – is President of Contego Services Group, offering fraud investigation services for workers’ compensation fraud, medical fraud and Medicare fraud, and all other types of fraud. Call 1-855-WE-SWARM today for more information.