Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis today announced the arrest of Oscar M. Palma made by the Department of Financial Services’ Disaster Fraud Action Strike Team. Palma, a Fort Myers contractor, was reported to authorities after allegedly making subpar roof repairs to an area apartment complex following Hurricane Irma. Upon launching an investigation, fraud detectives quickly learned that while Palma advertised himself as a licensed and insured contractor, he in fact held no workers’ compensation coverage and was not licensed as a contractor.
When accidents occur on job sites, workers’ compensation coverage protects the property owner and hired employees from being held responsible for paying medical and lost wage costs tied to potential on-the-job injuries. Therefore, Palma put his entire staff as well as his customers at risk by failing to carry proper insurance coverage.
CFO Patronis said, “When contractors fail to secure workers’ compensation coverage, a myriad of risks are presented, and we are sending a message that taking short cuts will not be tolerated. If any of Palma’s workers were to get injured, the property owners, who are already going through high-stress and costly times dealing with Hurricane Irma damages, or the employee themselves are forced to pay out-of-pocket for medical expenses. Our efforts are focused on ensuring our residents, consumers and employees don’t fall victim to Irma twice, and these types of uninsured activities could cause just that.”
The Department’s Bureau of Workers’ Compensation Compliance received a tip October 12, 2017, alleging unlicensed, uninsured and careless roof work was being performed by Palma’s company. Investigators visited one of Palma’s current work sites and issued a stop work order upon confirming Palma failed to secure a workers’ compensation insurance and Palma’s confession to having no professional license.
He was arrested October 13, 2017, and transported to Lee County Jail. This case will be prosecuted by the Lee County Office of the State Attorney, 20th Judicial Circuit. If convicted, Palma could face up to five years in prison.
The Department’s anti-fraud strike team consists of three teams working in areas heavily impacted by Hurricane Irma including South Florida, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties; Southwest Florida, including Lee and Collier counties; and Central Florida, including Polk and Orange counties. To report suspected fraud, call the Department’s toll-free Fraud Tip Hotline at 1-800-378-0445.