Seffner Man sentenced for role in construction-related tax evasion and wire conspiracy | USAO-MDFL

Tampa, Fla. — U.S. District Judge Thomas P. Barber sentenced Ricky Gonzales to 48 months in federal prison for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to defraud the United States. The court also issued a forfeiture order in the amount of $500,731.13, the proceeds of the wire fraud conspiracy. Gonzales had pleaded guilty to the charges on August 9, 2022.

According to court documents, Gonzales owned and operated a construction company that was supposed to provide construction services and labor to construction contractors and subcontractors. In order to comply with Florida law, the business operated by Gonzales was required to obtain and maintain adequate workers’ compensation insurance coverage. Gonzales’ company had agreements with contractors and sub-contractors to use workers who were deemed to be Gonzales’ employees on construction sites and these workers were often undocumented aliens who actually worked for and under the supervision and day-to-day management of contractors. Gonzales or others would then regularly receive “paychecks” from contractors which were cashed at various financial institutions to pay so-called “employees” of Gonzales and other related expenses.

During the Charged Period, Gonzales falsely and fraudulently stated in insurance applications that his company had a very limited payroll and a very limited number of employees who worked on construction sites. Gonzales also falsely and fraudulently sent electronic communications to numerous contractors stating that his company’s employees had full workers’ compensation coverage.

In fact, Gonzales’ company received and cashed over $7,150,000 in checks from various construction contractors for these so-called “employees.” These payroll figures far exceeded the very limited payroll figures that Gonzales had reported to his workers’ compensation insurance company. As a result, these employees, in reality employees of other entities, carried out work on construction sites without adequate insurance coverage. Moreover, insurers lost the premiums they would have charged if they had been aware of the actual number of workers their policies were so manipulated to cover.

As a result of these misrepresentations, Gonzales’ company also declined responsibility for ensuring that workers at the yard were legally authorized to work in the United States and that required state and federal payroll taxes were paid for those workers. The contractors who actually paid the wages of these workers and used their services could therefore also avoid liability for these tasks. As a result of this conspiracy, the IRS was unable to collect more than $1,094,000 in employment taxes from the wages of these workers.

“This criminal cheated thousands of premiums from insurance companies through undervalued workers’ compensation insurance policies, then took advantage of the backs of hundreds of non-citizen workers by renting these policies for a fee on their paychecks,” the HSI Tampa deputy special agent said. in charge of John Dumas. “HSI Special Agents, alongside the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, are committed to ensuring that all workers have the safety net of an appropriate workers’ compensation insurance policy.”

“Gonzales and his conspirators used a shell of lies to evade their tax liabilities and avoid workers’ compensation expenses. They have harmed not only the US government, but honest, hard-working construction companies,” said IRS-CI Special Agent in Charge Brian Payne. “The labor tax and workers’ compensation regimes are endemic to the Florida construction industry and will continue to be a top priority for IRS-CI.”

This matter was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations, the State of Florida Department of Financial Services, and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation. This is part of a long investigation by these agencies into the use of shell companies and “ghost” employees in the construction industry. He was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jay L. Hoffer.

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