Georgia Business Owner Sentenced in $54M California Workers’ Comp Fraud

Insurance Journal, March 13, 2023

Wesley Owens, 54, of Atlanta, Georgia, and Beau Wilson, 38, also of Atlanta, pleaded no contest to multiple felony counts of insurance fraud and conspiracy in Los Angeles Superior Court over charges filed after a California Department of Insurance investigation found the two perpetrated a $54 million workers’ compensation insurance fraud scheme.

They both will be sentenced to 10 years of formal probation, 60 days of community labor and are ordered to pay $350,000 prior to their final sentencing in restitution.

Wilson additionally agreed to sell five pieces of real property and remit the proceeds of the sale towards further restitution. Both also stipulated to an agreed additional $14.15 million owed in restitution during their 10 years of formal probation. If either defendant fails to fulfill the terms of their probation, they will be sent to prison for five years.

Owens owned and was the CEO of Bison Workforce Solutions, a Professional Employer Organization based outside Atlanta, which provided outsourced workers’ comp insurance, human resources, payroll, tax and other services.

After receiving a referral from the State Compensation Insurance Fund, the CDI launched an investigation that reportedly uncovered a massive workers’ comp fraud scheme perpetrated by Owens, Wilson, and other Bison employees. The investigation reportedly found the company failed to pay roughly $29 million in premium as a result of its fraud and bilked its PEO customers out of roughly $25.5 million in fees they thought were paying for workers’ comp coverage.

The CDI investigation found Owens would obtain workers’ comp insurance for his company, Bison, and then use the documents provided to it by the insurance company to generate fraudulent certificates of insurance, which they would issue to PEO customers.The carrier was told the policy was to cover a small, white-collar firm, not the PEO customers’ businesses, which included agricultural workers, roofers, limo drivers, and a wide variety of other employees. The investigation also found Wilson, who was aware of the fraud, recruited customers for Bison and received commissions for each client that used the fraudulent services.

Bison became unable to obtain workers’ comp because of its persistent fraud so the company reportedly entered into a business relationship with another firm that already had a workers’ comp policy.

Owens and his coconspirators began using that firm’s documents to continue generating fake insurance certificates. To conceal the fact that its policy was being misused to insure PEO customers, Bison reportedly began paying out claims itself. When the expense of this was too much, it eventually stopped paying out claims and left workers uncovered and with no recourse after being injured on the job.

The CDI executed a search warrant in Georgia in conjunction with the Georgia Department of Insurance and conducted numerous interviews. On March 2, Owens and Wilson pleaded no contest. Probation and sentencing is set for Sept. 13.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office prosecuted the case.

News article: