Family-Run Construction Fraud Ring Lands 3 in Prison

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Family-Run Construction Fraud Ring Lands 3 in Prison

A Florida woman is the third to plead guilty to federal charges for conspiracy to defraud the United States and IRS through shell companies claiming to supply laborers to contractors and subcontractors.

The charges against Gabriela Inamagua, 29, Davenport, Florida, were detailed in a release issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Middle District of Florida. Inamagua was sentenced to 12 months and one day in federal prison and ordered to pay $8.9 million in restitution to two victim insurance companies and the IRS.

The scheme was a family affair, according to the Claims Journal. Inamagua’s father, Guillermo Inamagua, and her father’s former girlfriend, Mayra Velasquez, were convicted of similar crimes in 2022.

“The construction industry as a whole suffers when fraudsters exploit the system by creating fictitious shell companies to illegally pay workers off the books in order to scam insurance companies and avoid employment taxes,” said IRS-CI Acting Special Agent in Charge Tara K. Reed. “Today’s sentencing is a reminder that all businesses and employees are responsible for their fair share of taxes. IRS-CI and our law enforcement partners will continue building cases with these schemes and bringing those responsible to justice.”      

[Related: Construction Sees Rise in Payroll Tax Evasion, Worker’s Comp Fraud]

Court documents revealed that Inamagua owned and managed two “shell” construction companies, Uno Construction and Perfect Builders Group, which claimed to supply construction services and labor for construction contractors and subcontractors. Per standard practice, the companies were required to maintain adequate worker’s compensation insurance coverage for the employees hired.

Inamagua’s companies made agreements with contractors and subcontractors. She posed to be the employer of the workers, who were often undocumented aliens. In reality, the workers were employees of said contractors.

When payday rolled around, Inamagua’s companies would receive “payroll checks” from the contractors and subcontractors for the purported employees. Employees were paid under the table in cash, and Inamagua would take a percentage off the top in exchange for the use of a fraudulent insurance certificate. In all, court documents state that Inamagua received and cashed more than $34 million worth of those checks.

Because Inamagua lowballed her total employees and payroll on insurance applications, the insurance companies also lost premiums they would have charged had they been aware of the true number of workers their policies were being manipulated to cover. As a result, these employees performed work without adequate worker’s compensation coverage.

Along with incorrect reporting of employees, payroll, and insurance, Inamagua’s companies evaded laws that required the payment of state and federal payroll taxes on behalf of the workers. Inamagua nor her co-conspirators, who actually employed the workers, collected or remitted the required payroll taxes on the workers, resulting in $8.9 million in unpaid taxes.

Guillermo Inamagua, 57, Davenport, Florida, was sentenced in July 2022 to 3 years and 10 months in federal prison, a forfeiture of $1.6 million, and the forfeiture of two properties in Polk County. He cashed more than $19 million in payroll checks and had over $1.5 million in unpaid insurance premiums and $4.7 million in unpaid taxes.

Velasquez, 35, of Apopka, Florida, received more than $7 million in checks. The insurers covering her shell company reported $750,000 in unpaid premiums. Unpaid taxes totaled $1.8 million. In April 2022, she was sentenced to 3 years and 5 months in federal prison, forfeiture of $600,752 and forfeiture of three properties in Polk County. 

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