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"Operation Dirty Money" Bust Takes Down Workers Comp Fraud Ring

FORT LAUDERDALE (CBS4) - Investigators say they've busted a worker's compensation fraud ring in Broward County.

The investigation dubbed "Operation Dirty Money" was a joint effort between Broward County deputies and the state division of insurance fraud.

At a news conference Friday, Broward County sheriff's deputies showed off a million dollars they say they seized during their investigation.

Eight people face charges of workers compensation fraud and money laundering. They're accused of being involved in a check cashing scheme to avoid the cost of worker's comp coverage.

"Workers compensation premiums are based on the number of employees you report and your amount of payroll what these folks do is they intentionally go out they set up a company that is just on paper they insure it for the smallest workers comp they're able to obtain," Major Geoffrey Branch of the Florida Division of Insurance Fraud explained.

In this case, investigators say the fraud involved a construction company. Investigators say Hugo Rodriguez was the ringleader and allegedly funneled more than $70 million through shell companies to avoid paying workers' compensation coverage. In court, his bond was set at more than half a million dollars.

Officials say workers complementation fraud raises premiums for legitimate businesses and in the end tax payers could end up footing the bill if a worker is hurt on the job.

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater said this kind of fraud takes a billion dollars a year out of Florida's economy.

The Workers' Compensation Fraud Task Force is a joint effort between the state and Broward County aimed at stopping workers' compensation fraud.

Atwater had a message for anyone considering committing fraud.

"We have figured you out we are on our way we are going to find you and we are going to arrest you."

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