A Sustainable Workforce Starts With You

Shell Company Operators Sentenced in Multi-Million Dollar Wire and Payroll Fraud Scheme

Chief United States District Court Judge Timothy J. Corrigan has sentenced Omar Wilkin Santos-Calix and Oscar Rene Santos-Santos, both Honduran nationals and both illegally present in United States, to 24 months in federal prison for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit tax fraud. The court also ordered Santos-Calix to pay restitution to the IRS in the amount of $3,245,161 and entered a money judgment against Santos-Calix in the amount of $897,870, representing the proceeds of the wire fraud. The court ordered Santos-Santos to pay restitution to the IRS in the amount of $1,773,429 and entered a money judgement against Santos-Santos in the amount of $490,634, representing the proceeds of the wire fraud.

According to court documents, Santos-Calix and Santos-Santos established a shell company that purported to be involved in the construction industry. They obtained a workers’ compensation insurance policy in the name of the shell company to cover a minimal payroll for a few purported employees, then “rented” the workers’ compensation insurance to work crews who had obtained subcontracts with construction contractors on projects in various Florida counties as well as contractors in other states. Santos-Calix and Santos-Santos sent the contractors a certificate as “proof” that the work crews had workers’ compensation insurance, as required by Florida law. By sending the certificate, the defendants falsely represented that the work crews worked for the two companies. Over the course of the scheme, the defendants “rented” the certificates to dozens of work crews, defrauding the worker’s compensation insurance carrier.

As part of the scheme, the contractors issued payroll checks for the workers’ wages to the shell companies and Santos-Calix and Santos-Santos cashed these checks, then distributed the cash to the work crews after deducting their fee, which was typically about 6% of the payroll. During the scheme, both defendants cashed payroll checks totaling approximately $19 million, with their fees totaling over $1 million. Neither the shell company nor the contractors reported to government authorities the wages that were paid to the workers, nor did they pay either the employees’ or the employer’s portion of payroll taxes – including Social Security, Medicare, and federal income tax. According to the IRS, the amount of payroll taxes due on wages collected by Santos-Calix and Santos-Santos totaled $5,018,590.

The scheme also facilitated the avoidance of the higher cost of obtaining adequate workers’ compensation insurance for the numerous workers on the work crews to whom Santos-Calix and Santos-Santos “rented” the workers’ compensation insurance. The two policies that the defendants purchased and then “rented” out was for an estimated payroll of $175,000, and the insurance company issued policies for a premium of approximately $21,000. Had a workers’ compensation insurance policy been purchased for the actual payroll totaling approximately $19,000,000, the policy premium would have totaled about $2.5 million.

“Through their illegal workers compensation payroll and insurance fraud scheme, these individuals sought to defraud the U.S. government and undercut legitimate private businesses, while taking advantage of noncitizen workers, for their own personal profit,” said Assistant Special Agent in Charge K. Jim Phillips, HSI Jacksonville. “Rest assured that HSI special agents, IRS Criminal Investigation, and our law enforcement partners will vigilantly pursue those who think they can operate without regard to U.S. laws.”

“Through their actions, these defendants attempted to create an environment that favored cheaters,” said IRS-CI Acting Special Agent in Charge Tara K. Reed. IRS-CI prioritizes cases involving individuals who seek to hurt tax-compliant individuals and businesses. Through our partnership with HSI and the United States Attorney’s Office, we will continue to identify bad actors and work together to vigorously investigate and prosecute these payroll tax and worker’s compensation insurance schemes.”  

This case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, and the Florida Department of Financial Services. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney John Cannizzaro. The forfeiture was handled by Assistant United States Attorney Mai Tran. 

Authored by the Middle District of Florida United States' Attorney's Office and originally published on justice.gov