Farm worker’s medical mistreatment reveals siblings’ alleged $1.4 million workers’ compensation fraud scheme
News: 2021 Press Release
MONTEREY, Calif. — Farm labor company owners and siblings Elias Perez, 40, of Greenfield, and Alejandra Perez, 37, of Soledad, were arraigned on over 20 felony counts of insurance and tax fraud after allegedly underreporting payroll by over $17 million resulting in a loss of over $1.42 million to their insurance companies. The Department of Insurance discovered the alleged fraud after learning that an injured employee was treated out of a garage by an unlicensed professional.
The Perezes are owners of farm labor contracting companies in Greenfield called PFL Contracting Inc., Future Ag Management, Inc. (FAM) and Future Harvesters and Packers, Inc., (FHP), which primarily hire farm labor employees to harvest crops.
An investigation by the Department of Insurance found on June 28, 2016, an employee of one of the Perezes’ businesses, FAM, sustained a work-related injury to their back when they tripped and fell while harvesting crops. The Perezes along with a FAM supervisor allegedly did not provide the injured employee with the required professional medical treatment. For two weeks, the FAM supervisor took the injured worker to seek treatment from an unlicensed professional who operated a business out of their garage.
More than two weeks after the employee’s injury, Elias Perez filed a workers’ compensation claim with their insurance company and stated the employee’s injury occurred on July 7, 2016.
“The alleged insurance fraud scheme our detectives uncovered revealed these siblings chose to sacrifice a vulnerable farm worker’s safety for their own profits,” said Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara. “We will continue to crack down on those who attempt to harm California workers and honest businesses. We all pay the price for this type of fraud through higher insurance premiums and increased costs.”
FAM and FHP obtained workers’ compensation policies from two different insurance companies. A comparison of records from the insurance companies and the California Employment Development Department (EDD) showed large discrepancies in the payroll reported by the Perezes. From July 2014 to August 2017, they reported to EDD that FAM and FHP paid $28,521,347 in wages while reporting only $23,246,922 to their insurance companies for the same time period.
As a part of the investigation, the Department of Insurance served bank search warrants and conducted a thorough review and audit of the payroll checks, which determined that FAM and FHP from July 2014 to August 2017 actually paid over $41 million in wages. They allegedly underreported over $17 million in wages, which resulted in approximately $1.42 million in premium owed to their insurance companies. In addition, the Perezes underreported PFL, FAM and FHP’s wages by approximately $12.8 million to EDD resulting in potentially $1.28 million in unpaid taxes.
FAM also maintained a workers’ compensation policy with another insurance company for the Perezes’ farm labor contracting operation in Arizona. Records obtained from that insurance company and the Arizona Department of Economic Security indicated additional discrepancies in their reporting and was included in this audit and investigation.
Elias Perez was charged with five felony counts and Alejandra Perez was charged with 21 felony counts. Both were arraigned on Wednesday, April 14, 2021, in Monterey County Superior Court. The Monterey County District Attorney’s Office is prosecuting this case.
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Led by Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, the California Department of Insurance is the consumer protection agency for the nation's largest insurance marketplace and safeguards all of the state’s consumers by fairly regulating the insurance industry. Under the Commissioner’s direction, the Department uses its authority to protect Californians from insurance rates that are excessive, inadequate, or unfairly discriminatory, oversee insurer solvency to pay claims, set standards for agents and broker licensing, perform market conduct reviews of insurance companies, resolve consumer complaints, and investigate and prosecute insurance fraud. Consumers are urged to call 1-800-927-4357 with any questions or contact us at www.insurance.ca.gov via webform or online chat. Non-media inquiries should be directed to the Consumer Hotline at 800-927-4357. Teletypewriter (TTY), please dial 800-482-4833.