Lakeland Man Pleads Guilty To Conspiracy To Commit Wire Fraud
Tampa, Florida – United States Attorney Roger B. Handberg announces that Ramon Paz (52, Lakeland) has pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Paz faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set.
According to the plea agreement, Paz owned and managed a construction company which he registered with the State of Florida in December 2016. This company purported to supply construction services and labor to work for construction site contractors. In order to comply with Florida law, Paz’s company was required to secure and maintain adequate worker’s compensation insurance coverage. Providers of worker’s compensation insurance base the premiums they charge and the amount of coverage they provide on the number of employees a company has and the total annual payroll of those employees. Paz’s company had agreements with contractors and subcontractors to use workers purported to be Paz’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. Paz or others would then regularly receive “payroll checks” from contractors that were cashed at various financial institutions to pay Paz’s purported “employees” and other related expenses.
During the time period charged in the criminal information, Paz falsely and fraudulently represented in insurance applications that his company had a very limited payroll and a very limited number of employees that worked on construction jobsites. Paz also falsely and fraudulently sent wire communications to numerous contractors representing that his company’s employees had full worker’s compensation coverage. In reality, Paz’s company received and cashed more than $21 million in checks from various construction contractors for these purported “employees.” These payroll figures far exceeded the very limited payroll figures that Paz had reported to his worker’s compensation insurance company. As a result, the employees of Paz’s company, 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, Paz’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 (HSI) and the State of Florida Department of Financial Services. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jay L. Hoffer.