146 Employees Charged with Workers’ Compensation Fraud in Florida
Last September, The Florida Division of Insurance Fraud opened up an investigation on Fruit Dynamics, a packing plant in Naples in which workers cut fruit and vegetables to order. The investigation began when a member of the sheriff’s office received a tip from a defense attorney who had been working with Fruit Dynamics and its subsidiaries and said they had a high number of illegal aliens working there. An employee seeking medical attention for an injury incurred on the job admitted to his lawyer that his true identity was not the same as what was listed in his paperwork. The employee admitted to using a fake identity in order to gain employment and suggested that others had done the same.
Over 6 months later, about 146 employees were charged with workers comp fraud, and some were accused of identity theft. Only 23 of the 169 employees at the Florida plant have not been accused of anything, and 105 of the 146 accused were arrested in a plant raid back in July.
Most employers are not document experts, so it can be tough for them to detect illegal documents, but services like the U.S. DHS E-Verify system can help shed some light on whether documentation is lawful. Under the workers’ comp fraud statute in Florida, it is a 3rd degree felony to use a false identity in order to gain employment or submit benefit claims. Employers should stress to employees that regardless of whether a workers’ comp claim is ever filed, it is still fraud to provide false personal identification.
Fruit Dynamics was able to resume normal business quickly, but it’s important to remember that this isn’t always the case. As an employer, it’s essential to get smart about workers’ compensation fraud and put processes in place to ensure that an investigation like the one in Naples will not leave you in a position where you are trying to resume business with only a quarter of your employees. For more information on workers’ fraud and how to protect your company, give the insurance experts at Avante a call at 305-648-7070 or visit us online.