Jacksonville, FL (WorkersCompensation.com) - Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis today announced the arrest of Maria Cristina Romero Zelaya, owner of Miochosis Construction, Inc. Zelaya allegedly provided fictitious information when applying for workers' compensation insurance coverage to obtain a lower premium. As a result, Zelaya illegally avoided paying more than $700,000 in premium payments and left her employees uninsured and vulnerable to workplace injuries.
“When companies lie to obtain cheaper, inadequate workers' compensation policies, staff or property owners are left vulnerable to covering sky-high medical costs if a worker gets injured on the job, and free markets are disrupted by scammers who can underbid their legitimate competitors," said CFO Patronis. "It's a lose-lose situation for Florida, and I won't stand for it.”
After receiving a tip that Zelaya may have falsified information, from August 2, 2016 to August 2, 2017, Department of Financial Services (DFS) investigators determined Zelaya cashed hundreds of payroll checks through local money service businesses totaling more than $5 million. The checks were found to be for various types of construction work that she withheld from her insurance company and were not covered by her workers' compensation insurance policy.
Zelaya reported to her insurance underwriter that her company's annual payroll was $200,000 and her company provided plastering and stucco services only. Based on this information, her workers' compensation premium was $26,622. Had Zelaya not withheld her company's true annual payroll and work description, the amount of her premium would have been $733,549.
Zelaya was arrested by DFS Division of Investigative and Forensic Services (DIFS) investigators and later transported to Duval County Jail December 7, 2017. She has been charged with knowingly concealing payroll, scheme to defraud and acting as an unlicensed money transmitter.
This case will be prosecuted by the Assistant State Attorney Joe Licandro of the Duval County States Attorney's Office. If convicted, Zelaya could face up to 60 years in prison.
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