The United States Attorney’s Office, Middle District of Florida, May 2, 2022
Tampa, Florida – United States Attorney Roger B. Handberg announces that Kelbin Tejeda (32, Tampa) pleaded guilty today to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Tejeda faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set.
According to the plea agreement, Tejeda owned and managed a construction company which he registered with the State of Florida in November 2018. This company purported to supply construction services and labor to work for construction site contractors and contractors. In order to comply with Florida law, Tejeda’s company was required to secure and maintain adequate worker’s compensation insurance coverage. Providers of worker’s compensation insurance based their premiums and the amount of coverage they provided on the number of employees a company had and the total annual payroll of those employees. Tejeda’s company had agreements with contractors and subcontractors to use workers purported to be Tejeda’s employees at construction sites and these workers were often undocumented aliens who were actually working for and under the daily supervision and direction of the contractors. Tejeda or others would then regularly receive “payroll checks” from contractors that were cashed at various financial institutions to pay Tejeda’s purported “employees” and other related expenses.
During the time period charged in the criminal information, Tejeda falsely and fraudulently represented in insurance applications that his company had a very limited payroll and a very limited number of employees who worked on construction jobsites. Tejeda also falsely and fraudulently sent wire communications to numerous contractors representing that his company’s employees had full worker’s compensation coverage. In reality, Tejeda’s company received and cashed more than $18 million in checks from various construction contractors for these purported “employees.” This payroll figure far exceeded the very limited payroll figures that Tejeda had reported to his worker’s compensation insurance company. As a result, these employees of Tejeda’s company, who in reality were the employees of other entities, performed work on jobsites without adequate insurance coverage. In addition, the insurers lost premiums they would have charged had they been aware of the true number of workers their policies were thus being manipulated to cover.
As a result of these misrepresentations, Tejeda’s company also disclaimed responsibility for ensuring that jobsite workers were legally authorized to work in the United States and that required state and federal payroll taxes were being paid for these workers. The contractors who actually paid these workers’ wages and used their services were thus also able to avoid responsibility for those duties as well.
This case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations and the State of Florida Department of Financial Services. It is part of an investigation by those agencies into the use of shell companies and “ghost” employees in the construction industry. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jay L. Hoffer.