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San Bernardino County continuing its crackdown on work comp fraud

Last week, our blog discussed how the Workers' Comp Fraud Unit of the San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office declared that it was ramping up its efforts to prosecute both uninsured employers and business owners who fail to abide by the state's employment and work comp laws.

Thus far, it appears as if the Work Comp Fraud unit has been staying true to its word, as they have made at least two very high-profile arrests of area business owners based on their alleged participation in California's underground economy.

  • On April 1, the Work Comp Fraud Unit arrested and charged 42-year-old Bhagwant S. -- the owner and operator of A&J Shippers, Inc. and Los Angeles Express Trucking Companies located in Hesperia -- with tax evasion, doing business as an uninsured employer, failure to observe a stop order and resisting arrest. Prosecutors allege that he failed to maintain the necessary level of work comp coverage for his employees and failed to pay employee payroll taxes as otherwise mandated by state law.
  • On April 2, the Work Comp Fraud Unit arrested and charged 58-year-old Najib S. -- the owner and operator of Tile Gallery Plus located in Hesperia -- with the failure to carry work comp insurance for his employees. Prosecutors allege that he was ordered to secure the necessary coverage on three separate occasions and that the coverage lapsed because of non-payment each time.

If convicted, Bhagwant S. faces up to six years in prison, while Najib S. faces up to one year in prison.

"In the past we have always focused on the classic kinds of worker's comp fraud, things like claimants misrepresenting their injuries," said David Simon, head attorney for the Work Comp Fraud Unit. "What we've noticed in the last couple of years, especially with the economy in the doldrums, is that many unscrupulous business owners are looking at ways to cut costs."

The move to crack down on the underground economy in San Bernardino County has gained the support of the California Professional Association of Specialty Contractors, which pointed out how these illegal practices can cause undue harm to those who follow the rules and urged compliance among its members.

Remember if you are an uninsured California employer facing a real problem -- prospective fine, prosecution, an employee injury or litigation -- there may be steps that can be taken to minimize the consequences. In these difficult circumstances, you may want to consider consulting with an experienced legal professional.

This post was provided for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.

Stay tuned for further developments in the area of workers' compensation defense law ...

Sources:

The Victorville Daily Press, "DA putting clamps on 'underground economy,'" Kris Reilly, April 9, 2013

The San Bernardino Sun, "Hesperia business owner charged for not carrying state insurance," Doug Sanders, April 2, 2013

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