An Orange County business owner and his office manager have been charged in an insurance fraud scheme that apparently put employees at risk and denied them wages, according to the California Department of Insurance.
Bobby Levell Gilbert, Jr., owner of B&J Tree Service, faces 96 felony counts of wage theft, denial of workers’ compensation benefits to employees, workers’ compensation fraud, failure to pay taxes and perjury, officials said.
His office manager, Bertha Rubi Sanchez, 30, of Anaheim, was also charged with multiple felonies for her alleged role in the scheme.
An investigation found that Gilbert allegedly took advantage of his workers by denying them what they earned “for his own enrichment,” according to the Department of Insurance.
A total of 32 workers were either denied wages or workers’ compensation benefits they were entitled to when injured on the job, or both.
Between October 2013 and August 2021, Gilbert, 66, of Santa Ana and Sanchez allegedly conspired to underreport payroll to their insurance carriers by about $1.3 million. Their failure to report employee payroll therefore resulted in reduction of workers’ comp insurance premiums, leading to about $248,757 owed, officials explained.
Additionally, the underreported payroll also resulted in unpaid payroll tax to the Employment Development Department of about $140,485.
The Orange County District Attorney’s Office is prosecuting the case, and the two defendants are due back in court in December.
“Cases like this one are particularly egregious, employees were not only put at great risk, but they were denied their hard earned wages,” Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara said in a news release.