LAKELAND, Fla. – The Florida Department of Financial Services’ (DFS) Division of Insurance Fraud (DIF) today announced eight arrests following a multi-agency undercover workers’ compensation sting in Polk County. These eight individuals advertised their ability to perform wide-ranging plumbing and electrical work without proper licenses or training, and without having workers’ compensation coverage to protect their employees in the event of an accident or injury.
During the three-day operation, DIF detectives, accompanied by logistical and tactical support from multiple agencies, established an undercover sting in an effort to stop this illegal practice. Detectives responded to public advertisements created by the defendants, requesting that they perform services at a specified location in Lakeland.
“Operations like this pull back the curtain on fraud in Florida, showing that if an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” said CFO Jeff Atwater. “Always ask questions, require all offers in writing and verify the credentials of every individual who may provide goods or services before any work begins.”
Those who were arrested include:
- Justin Cortes
- Greatlen Bozeman
- Herbert Vanegas
- Henricus Van Der Linden
- Stuart Rhodes
- Juan Carlos Diaz
- Raymond Figueroa-Garcia
- Raymond Perdue
When individuals knowingly neglect the law, they create a liability risk for property owners by performing sub-par work and by potentially leaving property owners responsible to cover medical costs if an uncovered worker is hurt on their property.
Multiple agencies played a vital role in securing the sting’s successful outcome, including the Lakeland Police Department, State Attorney’s Office, DFS’ Bureau of Workers’ Compensation Compliance, and the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
“We’re proud to have worked alongside strong state and local agencies to conduct the sting in Lakeland, and we will continue to be proactive in our efforts to protect Florida’s consumers and licensed professionals,” DBPR Secretary Ken Lawson said. “Unlicensed contractors lack the necessary training, qualifications and insurance to complete a job in compliance with building codes and often leave consumers responsible for additional costs to repair substandard work. At DBPR, we’re committed to bringing these unlicensed individuals into compliance with the law and mitigating the potential for consumer harm”.
Lakeland Police Chief Larry Giddens said, “We must be vigilant and continue to crack down on those who are contracting work illegally and working without a license. Unlicensed contractors place our citizens at risk and threaten the livelihood of our law-abiding contractors and their employees”.
Of the eight individuals arrested seven were booked into Polk County Jail on charges of workers’ compensation fraud and unlicensed contracting. Raymond Purdue carried adequate workers’ compensation coverage but failed to hold a business license. He was charged with unlicensed contracting and was also booked into Polk County Jail.
These cases will be prosecuted by the Office of State Attorney Jerry Hill, 10th Judicial Circuit. If convicted, all eight perpetrators face up to five years in prison, more if found to be a repeat offender.