Visalia business owner arraigned in $2.5 million workers’ compensation fraud scheme
News: 2021 Press Release
FRESNO, Calif. — Zachary Navo, 38, of Visalia, was arraigned yesterday on five felony counts of insurance fraud after a Department of Insurance investigation revealed he allegedly underreported wages by over $2.5 million in an attempt to fraudulently reduce workers’ compensation premium payments, resulting in a loss of over $135,000 to his insurance companies.
In December 2017, State Compensation Insurance Fund (SCIF) issued Navo a workers’ compensation insurance policy for his private security business, Element Security Solutions, Inc. In June 2018, Navo completed a payroll report indicating he had $80,500 in payroll for the first six months of the policy period. Navo failed to submit subsequent payroll information and failed to comply with an end of policy audit.
During the investigation, a review of Employment Development Department (EDD) records for the twelve-month policy period revealed $2,098,394 in payroll was reported to EDD for Element Security Solutions, Inc., which revealed an underreporting of approximately $2 million in payroll to SCIF. The underreporting resulted in a $134,761 loss in premium owed to SCIF.
Investigators also discovered that Navo is a licensed insurance agent and owns a secondary entity, Navo Financial, Inc., an insurance and financial solutions business, in which Navo reported $504,302 in payroll from 2016 to 2019. However, EDD records for the period of 2016 to 2019, found Navo reported $1,047,482 in payroll to EDD for Navo Financial, Inc., demonstrating an underreporting of $543,180 in payroll and resulting in a $1,164 loss to a different insurance company.
Under state law, employers are required to maintain workers’ compensation insurance to protect their employees in the event of an accidental on-the-job injury. To ensure proper coverage, employers must accurately report the number of employees, job classifications, and the amount of payroll expended. One of the common ways in which employers avoid paying insurance premiums is to underreport a business’s payroll by providing false payroll reports to their insurance company.
This case is being prosecuted by the Tulare County District Attorney’s Office.
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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.