MEDIA COURTHOUSE >> An employee of a York construction company who falsely classified employees as “independent contractors” in order to avoid paying taxes was sentenced to more than 34 months of probation on Friday after being sentenced to pleaded guilty to conspiracy to theft by illegal capture and incorrect classification of employees.
Angelita Paulin-Santos, 39, of the 600 block of Smith Street in York, worked as an accountant for G&R Drywall and Framing LLC, according to defense attorney Anser Ahmad. She was indicted earlier this year along with business owner Armando Garcia-Ramirez, 55, of the 2100 block of S. Queen Street in York; his wife and partner, Martha Guzman, 45, and their daughter and employee, Stephanie Garcia-Ramirez, 26.
According to probable cause affidavits prepared by Detective Steven Cortese of the Delaware County Criminal Investigations Division, the county received information in September 2019 about a possible workplace misclassification regarding the construction of a new room. LA Fitness Gym at 2170 West Chester Pike in Broomall.
Cortese and Lt. CID William Wright obtained documents for several of the employees indicating that they were independent contractors. But speaking with some of those people, Cortese learned that many of their Social Security numbers appearing on the employer’s documents were fraudulent, according to the affidavits. At least two of the workers were undocumented and said Garcia-Ramirez knew some of the workers were undocumented immigrants.
Investigators also found that employees received hourly wages on a weekly payroll distribution, that none of the “independent contractors” had a business separate from G&R Drywall and Framing, and that the company gave employees on the job. ‘money to purchase liability insurance, which was required by the allegedly fraudulent independent contractor contracts the employees signed, according to the affidavits.
Business records seized under two search warrants executed in November 2020 reportedly revealed large amounts of monetary instruments were routinely transferred to Hidalgotitlan, Mexico by business owners, employees and the business address of G&R Drywall and Framing, according to the affidavits. These included vehicles, houses and US currency which, according to the affidavits, were obtained illegally.
These were the first charges in the state under Law 72 of 2011, dubbed the Construction Workers Classification Law, a ten-year-old law that provides that independent contractors must be self-reliant, with their own business, performing arm’s length tasks for Payment contracts.
Garcia-Ramirez pleaded guilty in February to theft by illegal taking, conspiracy to fraud workers’ compensation and incorrectly classifying workers. He was sentenced to 23 months with one year of consecutive probation and ordered to pay compensation of $ 28,119, jointly and severally with the other defendants. The time served was from December 22 to February 10.
Guzman and Garcia Rivera were each sentenced to 18 months probation under the accelerated rehabilitation program without admitting their guilt and were ordered to perform 40 hours of community service.
Ahmad said his client had lived in the United States for seven or eight years and had a daughter who is a U.S. citizen in the military. This is his first run-in with the law, according to Ahmad, and it could impact his immigration status.
As part of the negotiated guilty plea drawn up by Ahmad and Deputy Prosecutor Elizabeth Schneider, head of the Economic Crimes Unit, Paulin-Santos will also pay $ 28,119 in restitution, jointly and severally with the other defendants.