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Bird sanctuary operator charged with workers' compensation fraud

The 68-year-old founder of a bird sanctuary in California was placed under arrest over the weekend of Nov. 2. He was booked into jail for workers' compensation fraud charges but was released some time later. The defendant had allegedly been conducting business at the sanctuary for the past seven months without the required insurance for worker's compensation.

An order to stop work, due to the failure to arrange the required coverage for insurance, was allegedly ignored, and operations continued. Authorities claim to have an affidavit, signed by the defendant, admitting to running the sanctuary without the required workers' compensation insurance. The defendant claimed to have been unaware of any problems or wrongdoing and also denied having signed an affidavit in admittance to any unlawful actions. He further denied any knowledge of the order issued to stop work.

The defendant claimed that, due to an error on the side of the carrier of his workers' compensation insurance, he operated the sanctuary without the necessary insurance for a brief period. The insurer failed to advise him of the expiration date, and this was rectified as soon as he became aware of the problem. He stated that the failure to have the required insurance for that short period was unintentional.

This case comes after various charges for tax infringements over the past two years. The sanctuary has kept its doors open for visitors but has had to close the hospital and stopped accepting injured birds for treatment. The defendant is adamant about working through the financial difficulties and eventually reopening the bird hospital. Operators of businesses in California may wish to determine all the requirements regarding the necessary insurance, in order to not fall prey to charges of workers' compensation fraud.

Source: Tampa Bay Times, Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary founder charged with workers' compensation fraud, Anne Lindberg, Nov.15, 2013

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