Multi-Agency Collaboration Leads to 9 Arrests in Tampa Workers’ Comp. Fraud Sting
TAMPA, Fla.- The Florida Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud (DIF) today announced nine arrests following a multi-agency workers’ compensation sting in Manatee County. These nine individuals were found to have advertised their ability to perform jobs such as plumbing, electrical, and air conditioning work without proper licenses or training, and without having workers’ compensation coverage to protect their employees in the event of an accident or injury.
Those who were arrested include:
•Martin Joseph Aldridge,
•Mario Marcello Botton,
•Michael Robert Hawkins,
•Stephen Clay Dennis, and;
•Ian A. Oswald
During the three-day operation that ended today, September 25th, DIF detectives accompanied by logistical and tactical support from multiple agencies, established an undercover sting across the Tampa-Bradenton area in an effort to stop this illegal practice. Detectives responded to the aforementioned public advertisements, calling for contractors to perform services at a specified location in Manatee County.
The investigation revealed that of the nine individuals arrested, unlicensed and uninsured plumbing and electrical services were allegedly offered by Ruben Caleron, Juergen Hinz, Michael Hawkins, Victor Honeycutt, Stephen Dennis, and Ian Oswald. Illegal contracting services limited to plumbing only were allegedly offered by Margaret Espinal and Martin Aldridge and services regarding plumbing and AC repair were allegedly offered by Mario Botton.
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. These agencies include: Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, Bradenton Police Department, Palmetto Police Department, Longboat Key Police Department, Bureau of Workers’ Compensation Compliance, City of Bradenton Code Enforcement, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Manatee County Code Enforcement, and the Manatee County State Attorney’s Office.
The nine individuals arrested were booked into Manatee County Jail on charges of workers’ compensation fraud and unlicensed contracting, and if convicted, they can face up to 5 years in prison. These cases will be prosecuted by the Office of Manatee County State Attorney Ed Brodsky.
Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, a statewide elected official, oversees the Department of Financial Services. CFO Atwater’s priorities include fighting financial fraud, abuse and waste in government, reducing government spending and regulatory burdens that chase away businesses, and providing transparency and accountability in spending. Follow the activities of the Department on Facebook (FLDFS) and Twitter (@FLDFS).