Jacksonville, FL – U.S. District Judge Henry Lee Adams, Jr. has sentenced Orquidea Quezada (48, Orlando) to 18 months in federal prison for wire fraud and for operating as an unlicensed money transmitter. The Court ordered her to forfeit $136,886 in cash that was seized when she was arrested, $60,178.91 that was seized from her bank accounts, and a 2013 Honda Accord, valued at $11,500, that she had used while committing the offenses. The Court also entered a money judgment against Quezada in the amount of $584,435.09, representing the proceeds of the criminal conduct less the amount previously seized, and she was further ordered to pay restitution to AIG Insurance in the amount of $18,603.24.
Quezada pleaded guilty on September 28, 2016.
According to court documents, between May 2013 and May 2016, Quezada, doing business as Orquicely Construction, LLC, applied for workers’ compensation insurance policies to cover two to seven employees and an annual payroll of approximately $100,000. The insurance companies issued the policies for annual premiums based on the payroll information disclosed in the applications.
Under Florida law, any business that engages in construction work must secure and maintain workers’ compensation insurance and the failure to do so is a felony. Construction contractors must require subcontractors to provide proof that they have workers’ compensation insurance.
Quezada then “rented” the insurance policies to numerous construction subcontractors who employed hundreds of workers, many of whom were undocumented aliens. To do so, she directed her insurance agent to e-mail the subcontractors a certificate of insurance that the insurance would cover their workers. The subcontractors wrote payroll checks to Orquicely Construction for work performed by their employees. Quezada then cashed those checks and paid the subcontractors’ employees in cash, through work crew leaders. Quezada kept five percent of each check as a fee for her services. Between May 2013 and November 2015, Quezada funneled about $17.4 million through her company to the subcontractors’ employees.
Neither Orquicely Construction nor the subcontractors deducted state or federal taxes, such as for Medicare and Social Security, from the workers’ pay. The scheme allowed the subcontractors to avoid these taxes and workers’ compensation taxes, and to conceal their employment of undocumented aliens that were working illegally in the United States.
“This sentencing is the result of HSI’s combined investigative expertise in financial crimes and worksite enforcement,” said Susan L. McCormick, special agent in charge of HSI Tampa. “HSI special agents will continue to identify, disrupt, and eliminate the criminal schemes used to exploit our financial industry and to garner profit from the labor of undocumented aliens. HSI’s continued partnership with agencies such the Florida Department of Financial Services, Division of Investigative & Forensic Services greatly enhances our ability to successfully identify and prosecute these criminal organizations.”
“Employers who attempt to evade the law and fail to provide workers’ compensation coverage leave their employees vulnerable to extraordinary costs in the event of an on-the-job injury,” said Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater. “Not only are employees left at risk, but when bad actors save thousands by not paying for insurance policies, they can skew the competitive market by bidding on projects at a much cheaper rate—making it difficult for the law-abiding employers to win job contracts. I applaud the collaborative efforts of our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners who work day in and day out to ensure the bad actors within the construction industry are held accountable for their crimes.”
The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (Jacksonville and Orlando), the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, and the Florida Department of Financial Services Division of Investigative and Forensic Services. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Arnold B. Corsmeier.
Source: US Attorney’s Office