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California Department of Insurance investigation leads to conviction of family for workers' compensation insurance fraud

News: 2013 Press Release

For Release: October 22, 2013
Media Calls Only: 916-492-3566
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California Department of Insurance investigation leads to conviction of family for workers' compensation insurance fraud

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. - Jeffrey Thranow, 59, owner of Costa Bella Builders was convicted of committing workers' compensation insurance premium fraud for his part in failing to report employees to his insurance carrier or to the Employment Development Department (EDD). Thranow's son-in-law, Vittorio Castelli, 34, was also convicted of felony insurance fraud, while Thranow's daughter, Kathleen Castelli, 34, was convicted of misdemeanor insurance fraud.

"Fraud is a multi-billion dollar enterprise, which artificially inflates costs to insurers, consumers, and California's taxpayers," said Commissioner Dave Jones. "Thranow cheated both his workers' compensation insurer and the State of California out of nearly $100,000, and by doing so passed the cost of his fraud onto consumers across the state. Through a collaborative effort between my department and the Santa Cruz District Attorney's Office, we have brought another non-compliant contractor to justice."

The Department of Insurance in a joint effort with the Santa Cruz County District Attorney's Office began an investigation in November 2011 into Costa Bella Builder, in response to an employee injury. Thranow, a licensed contractor operating in Aptos, paid employees in cash in an attempt to avoid paying workers' compensation insurance. The investigation uncovered evidence that Thranow along with his daughter and son-in-law colluded to convince employees to accept these cash payroll payments. A Costa Bella employee was injured during this time and required surgery. Thranow dissuaded this employee from filing a workers' compensation claim and instead offered him a State Disability Form with instructions to claim the injury occurred while the employee was home.

Costa Bella Builders was ordered to pay over $47,000 in premium restitution, nearly $30,000 in back taxes to EDD, and pay $37,000 in restitution related to the injured workers claim.       


Media Notes:

  • Jeffrey Thranow was sentenced to one year of jail.
  • Vittorio Castelli was sentenced to six months of jail. 
  • Kathleen Castelli was sentenced to one year of probation.

The California Department of Insurance, established in 1868, is the largest consumer protection agency in California. Insurers collect $340 billion in premiums annually in California. Since 2011 the California Department of Insurance received more than 1,000,000 calls from consumers and helped recover over $469 million in claims and premiums. Please visit the Department of Insurance website at Non-media inquiries should be directed to the Consumer Hotline at 800-927-4357. Teletypewriter (TTY), please dial 800-482-4833.

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