Tampa, Florida – United States Attorney Roger B. Handberg announces that Ricky Gonzales has pleaded guilty today to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States. Gonzales faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison on the conspiracy to commit wire fraud count, and up to, 5 years’ imprisonment on the conspiracy to defraud count.
According to the plea agreement, Gonzales owned and managed a construction company which he registered with the State of Florida. His company was named Ricky’s Construction Company and purported to supply construction services and a labor force to work for construction contractors.
As such, in order to comply with Florida law, Gonzales’s company was required to secure and maintain adequate worker’s compensation insurance coverage. The providers of worker’s compensation insurance base the premiums they charge and the amount of coverage they provide on the number of employees a company has, and the total annual payroll of those employees. Gonzales’s company had agreements with contractors and subcontractors to use workers purported to be his company’s employees at construction sites and these workers were often undocumented aliens who were actually working for and under the daily supervision and direction of the contractors. Gonzales or others regularly received “payroll checks” from these contractors that were then cashed at various financial institutions in order to pay the purported “employees” of Ricky’s Construction.
During the conspiracy, Gonzales falsely and fraudulently represented in insurance applications that his company had very limited payroll and a very limited number of employees who worked on construction jobsites. He also caused the transmission of false and fraudulent wire communications to numerous contractors representing that his company’s employees had full worker’s compensation coverage.
In reality, Gonzales’s company received and cashed more than $7 million in checks from various construction contractors for his purported “employees”. This payroll figure far exceeded the very limited payroll figures that Gonzales had reported to his worker’s compensation insurance company. As a result, these employees performed work on jobsites without adequate insurance coverage. In addition, the insurers lost premiums they would have charged had they been aware of the true number of workers their policies were being manipulated to cover.
As a result of these misrepresentations, Ricky’s Construction also disclaimed responsibility for ensuring that jobsite workers were legally authorized to work in the United States and that required state and federal payroll taxes were being paid for these workers. The contractors who actually paid these workers’ wages and used their services were thus also able to avoid responsibility for those duties. Over the course of this conspiracy, Gonzales’s misrepresentations caused a loss to the Internal Revenue Service of approximately $1,094,450 in unpaid payroll taxes.
This case is part of a series of prosecutions related to similar construction industry-related fraud in the Tampa Bay area. This case was investigated by the Homeland Security Investigations, the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, and the State of Florida Department of Financial Services -Division of Investigative and Forensic Services. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jay L. Hoffer.