APTOS, CA - The owner of Cost Bella Builders, a cabinetry, remodeling and construction firm, was convicted of committing workers' compensation insurance premium fraud, says Dave Jones, California Insurance Commissioner.
Jeffrey Thranow, owner of Costa Bella Builders, was convicted of workers' compensation insurance premium fraud for failing to report employees to his insurance carrier or to California's Employment Development Department. He and his company will pay $100,000 in fines and restitution.
Jones says Thranow, a licensed contractor, paid employees in cash to avoid workers' compensation insurance. He also persuaded an employee not to file a workers' compensation claim after an injury on the job.
"Thranow cheated both his workers' compensation insurer and the State of California out of nearly $100,000," said Jones. Thranow's son-in-law, Vittorio Castelli, also was convicted of felony insurance fraud, and his daughter, Kathleen Castelli, was convicted of misdemeanor insurance fraud.
This type of crime has become so prevalent, Commissioner Jones awarded $32 million in grants to 36 California county district attorney offices to support prosecuting cases of workers' compensation fraud.
"Our company has been called out to finish so many jobs for homeowners who were conned by fraudulent contractors," says Bobbie Everett, president of San Jose-based The Wood Connection.
Everett is active in the California Association of Specialty Contractors, which has launched a campaign, called LEVEL, to get regulators to clamp down on unlicensed contractors that sprang up during the downturn, often working on a cash-only basis at below market rates.
Everett, who is also on the National Association of the Remodeling Industry Sillicon Valley chapter board, says, "We are pleased to see enforcement branches of the state and local government take action against unlicensed contractors and the licensed contractors who are cheating, too."