Exploiting Laborers – and Healthcare Services

Unemployment insurance form on a table.

Worker’s Compensation Insurance fraud often calls to mind employees who fake or exaggerate an injury to claim benefits—but there are also plenty of fraudsters on the employer side. One of them, a Minnesota construction contractor, pleaded guilty In November 2019 to labor trafficking and insurance fraud for allegedly denying employees workers’ compensation and health benefits.

Ricardo Batres had been fined $15,000 over several years for exploiting undocumented immigrants prior to the recent trafficking and fraud charges. The good news: Batres’ case included the state’s first labor trafficking charges under a new law. Not as good: in January 2020, Batres was sentenced to at least four months in jail and five years of probation (He got off a lot easier than several of his workers, some of whom he had deported, and others who suffered with serious injuries for far longer.)

Bartres promised his workers partnership and free housing. Instead he rented a single house for a large group of workers—without heat, hot water, or use of the stove. (In Minnesota—where January temperatures frequently plummet below -10°F.) He forced laborers to work in unsafe conditions, resulting in multiple injuries. He told workers that he would report them to Immigration and Customs Enforcement if they complained or reported him to authorities. (One victim testified that Batres threatened to kill him and his family if he reported him.)

The impacts of Batres’ Worker’s Compensation Insurance fraud were serious for Minnesota and federal healthcare services, and often severe for the laborers he exploited. In one egregious instance, a wall toppled onto a worker, fracturing his spine. Batres claimed the worker was a personal friend injured while helping him clean out his house. (What a swell “friend”!]) This allegedly allowed the worker to receive emergency medical assistance of $31,000 from Medicaid, $10,000 through Minnesota Care, and $4,200 through the Hennepin County Charity Care program—costs that should have been covered through Workers Compensation Insurance. Another worker splintered a bone in his spine when he fell from second-story scaffolding. Batres forced him to keep working and see a woman who gave massages in her home rather than seek medical treatment, on threat of deportation.

Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from a City Pages article, “Ricardo Batres faces nine-month sentence for trafficking immigrant laborers,” published Nov. 19, 2020.

Ricardo Batres, a construction contractor who exploited undocumented immigrants, pleaded guilty to avoid criminal proceedings on Monday, Minnesota Public Radio reports.

Batres, 47, had been fined a total of $15,000 over the years for violations of state labor law, but avoided criminal prosecution until last fall. Also accused of workers’ compensation fraud and theft by swindle, Batres became the first person in state history charged under a law outlawing labor trafficking.

Additional Information is from a WWCO 4 CBS Minnesota news story, “Contractor Ricardo Batres Gets Jail Time, Probation For Labor Trafficking,” published Jan. 15, 2020.

Further details are available from a City Pages article, “Twin Cities construction is booming, and human traffickers are coming to feed,” published Nov. 7, 2018.

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Larry Benson
Larry Benson is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances for Revenue Discovery and Recovery at LexisNexis Risk Solutions. In this role, Benson is responsible for developing partnerships for the tax and revenue and child support enforcement verticals. He focuses on embedded companies that have a need for third-party analytics to enhance their current offerings.