Miami, FL (WorkersCompensation.com) - Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater announced the arrest today of a Miami shell company owner accused of creating more than 250 fraudulent certificates of insurance to help uninsured contractors avoid $2.1 million in workers compensation premiums.
Yucet Batista, 29, was arrested following a joint investigation by the Department of Financial Services' Division of Insurance Fraud and the Broward Sheriff's Office. The investigation determined that Batista created a shell company, Y&L Construction Services, Inc., and used money service businesses to carry out the scheme. She was arrested on multiple felony charges and was booked into the Miami-Dade County Jail.
“I am proud of the work of my Fraud Division and this first-of-its-kind collaborative effort between the Broward Sheriff's Office and the division,” CFO Atwater said. “As a result of bringing all stakeholders to the table, we are protecting the responsible players in the marketplace while ensuring those who are diverting more than a billion dollars from Florida's economy are caught and held accountable.” Just last week, Gov. Rick Scott signed HB 1277, sponsored by Rep. Daniel Davis (R-Jacksonville) and SB 1586 sponsored by Sen. John Thrasher (R-Jacksonville), aimed at curbing this complex form of workers' compensation fraud.
In addition, CFO Atwater convened a working group in August 2011 to review the practices of certain bad actors in the check cashing services industry who were aiding in a complex workers' compensation premium fraud scheme. The new law is based on recommendations from a work group convened in August 2011 by CFO Atwater to review the practices of certain bad actors in the check cashing services industry that aid in workers' compensation premium fraud. The work group released its report in November.
“This is the first time that we have detached detectives to work a task force with the Department of Financial Services and it proved worthwhile,” Sheriff Al Lamberti said. “Fraud impacts and undermines honest businesses and the criminals who perpetrate it need to be pursued and prosecuted. I look forward to future joint enforcement operations with DFS.”
After Batista set up her shell company, she told her workers' compensation insurance company, Ascendant Commercial Insurance, Inc., that she had been in the construction business for 10 years and that she had five employees. Investigation revealed that Batista had never been in the construction industry, but rather she created the company and obtained the workers' compensation insurance policy for the purpose of “renting” it, or making it available to dozens of uninsured subcontractors for a fee.
In her tax return last year, Batista reported $14.7 million in payroll. Ascendant determined, as a result of her underreporting her payroll, she underpaid premiums by $2.1 million. This case is being prosecuted by the State Attorney's Office of the 20th Judicial Circuit and the dedicated workers' compensation fraud prosecutor in the State Attorney's Office of the 11th Judicial Circuit.
The Department of Financial Services to date has awarded almost $275,000 to more than 40 citizens as part of its Anti-Fraud Reward Program. The program rewards individuals up to $25,000 for information that directly leads to an arrest and conviction in an insurance fraud scheme. Anyone with information about these or any other incidents of suspected insurance fraud is asked to call 1-800-378-0455. Citizens who provide tips can remain anonymous.