MONROE – The arrest today of a Monroe business owner marks the third arrest in two days as the Louisiana Workforce Commission (LWC) continues its crackdown on employers allegedly committing workers’ compensation fraud.
Agents with the Louisiana Insurance Task Force arrested Neal Angrum, owner of Water Works Cleaning Service in Monroe on charges of insurance certificate forgery. The arrest follows on the heels of Thursday’s arrest of Mauro and Keren Aguirre of Lafayette, owners of Escapade Acoustic Drywall, on charges of felony theft and workers’ compensation premium fraud totaling an estimated $1.2 million in unpaid insurance premiums.
The arrests were part of an ongoing effort by LWC to crack down on workers’ compensation fraud by both businesses and workers, said Chris Broadwater, director of the LWC Office of Workers’ Compensation. “Our message should be clearly heard: If employers or employees are operating outside the bounds of the law, we will investigate these matters thoroughly and will seek to apply all remedies available under the law," he said.
The task force that made the arrests is a joint effort of LWC, Louisiana State Police, Louisiana Department of Insurance and the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office.
Angrum is accused of altering an expired certificate of insurance to make it appear that his company was covered by a workers’ compensation policy in order to maintain his service contract with the State of Louisiana. State contractors are required to have a workers’ compensation policy in effect to qualify for work. Authorities began investigating Angrum after receiving information that his company’s workers’ compensation coverage had been cancelled on Oct. 3, 2007, due to non-payment.
On Thursday, Mauro and Keren Aguirre of Lafayette, owners of Escapade Acoustic Drywall, were arrested after the task force received a tip that the couple had not accurately reported the number of employees or their company’s total payroll during 2007 and 2008. The resulting investigation revealed the company reported around 35 employees, with a payroll of about $145,347, when it should have reported more than 300 employees and a payroll of more than $4.2 million.
The Louisiana Workforce Commission has been working throughout the year investigating suspected employer and employee fraud. Through the second quarter of 2009, nearly 1,600 investigations had been completed by the LWC Office of Workers’ Compensation Fraud and Compliance Units, with 13 referred to the AG’s office for possible prosecution. More than 10 arrests have been made so far this year.
“Our fraud and compliance units have done a fantastic job working in a collaborative effort with members of the task force to root out fraudulent activity wherever it is found,” said Broadwater. Much of the work is done by analyzing claims processed for workers’ comp and unemployment insurance and reviewing employer quarterly records.
It is illegal for businesses to misrepresent the status of their employees in an effort to avoid paying workers’ compensation insurance, payroll taxes and other employee-related costs.
“All employers doing business in Louisiana are required to provide workers’ compensation coverage for their employees. Businesses that are not covering their employees are shortchanging those employees and driving up costs for other businesses,” said Curt Eysink, executive director of the Louisiana Workforce Commission. “This is an important step in creating a level playing field for all businesses to compete fairly.”
Employers who fail to comply can be fined up to $250 per employee per incident. Continued non-compliance can result in larger fines, an injunction from doing business in the state or possible jail time.
For more information or to report suspected acts of fraud or non-compliance, contact the Louisiana Workforce Commission’s Office of Workers’ Compensation Finance and Compliance Division at 225-342-5658 or Fraud Division at 225-342-7558.
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