The United States Attorney’s Office, Middle District of Florida, August 4, 2022
Tampa, Florida – U.S. District Judge Charlene E. Honeywell has sentenced Kelbin Tejeda (32, Tampa) to 15 months in federal prison for conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The Court also entered an order of forfeiture in the amount of $360,000, the proceeds of the wire-fraud conspiracy. Tejada had pleaded guilty on May 2, 2022.
According to court documents, Tejada owned and managed a construction company which purported to supply construction services and labor for construction contractors and subcontractors. In order to comply with Florida law, Tejada’s company was required to secure and maintain adequate worker’s compensation insurance coverage. Tejada’s company had agreements with contractors and subcontractors to use workers purported to be Tejada’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. Tejada or others would then regularly receive “payroll checks” from contractors that were cashed at various financial institutions to pay Tejada’s purported “employees” and other related expenses.
During the course of the scheme, Tejada 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. Tejada also falsely and fraudulently sent wire communications to numerous contractors representing that his company’s employees had full worker’s compensation coverage.
In reality, Tejada’s company received and cashed more than $18,000,000 in checks from various construction contractors for these purported “employees”. These payroll figures far exceeded the very limited payroll figures that Tejada had reported to his worker’s compensation insurance company. As a result, these employees (in reality 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, Tejada’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.
“Mr. Tejada not only defrauded insurance companies of thousands of dollars in premiums by lying on his policy application, more importantly he severely jeopardized the health and well-being of non-citizen laborers who work long hours in hazardous positions,” said HSI Tampa Assistant Special Agent in Charge John Dumas. “HSI Special Agents and our law enforcement partners are committed to ensuring that all workers performing these jobs have the safety net of proper workman’s compensation insurance.”
Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis said, “Workers’ compensation fraud is a costly and dangerous crime that puts everyone at risk. This elaborate scheme illustrates how far criminals are willing to go to avoid paying workers’ compensation premiums and leaves honest Florida contractors to foot the bill for higher insurance rates in Florida. Thank you to the U.S. State Attorney’s Office, the Department of Homeland Security, and my dedicated insurance fraud detectives for their hard work in this case and bringing this bad actor to justice.”
This case was investigated by the United States Department of Homeland Security – Homeland Security Investigations and the State of Florida Department of Financial Services. It is part of a lengthy 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.