A Fullerton tree-trimming business owner who filed workers' compensation insurance claims for one worker killed in a wood chipper and a second seriously injured in an on-the-job vehicle accident–despite never having paid premiums for the employees–was recently sent to prison for five years. Jose Luis Guerrero, the 45-year-old owner of Jose Martinez Tree Service Inc., had pleaded guilty to under-reporting more than $2 million in payroll to the State Compensation Insurance Fund between March 2005 and March 2009.
It was a review of the Nov. 7, 2007, wood-chipper death of Gabriel Gonzalez by State Compensation Insurance Fund officials that uncovered the widespread fraud, according to Deputy District Attorney Debbie Jackson.
The investigation discovered Guerrero failed to pay the State Compensation Insurance Fund $619,000 and owed $81,000 in state taxes. He only paid workers-comp premiums for some employees, mostly clerical workers, presumably to keep the premiums lower, Jackson told City News Service.
The insurance fund still paid benefits to the family of Gonzalez and the other worker hurt on the job, Jackson added.
Guerrero pleaded guilty Dec. 20 to 20 counts of intent to evade taxes, four counts of false or fraudulent statements to reduce premiums, and two counts of making fraudulent statements to obtain or deny compensation, all felonies.
He also admitted to sentencing-enhancement allegations for aggravated white collar crime between $100,000 to $500,000 and theft exceeding $150,000, and also pleaded guilty to misdemeanor possession of an assault weapon.