Skip to Content

Workers Compensation Fraud - The Bison Case in 2023

Workers Compensation Fraud - The Bison Case of 2023

In a Workers Compensation Fraud case, Wesley Owens and Beau Wilson owned / operated Bison Workforce.  They pled guilty in March 2023 following their arrests based upon a California Department of Insurance investigation. The DOI claimed that they perpetrated a $54 million workers’ compensation insurance fraud scheme. 

While we don’t know how much proof the state had against Owens and Wilson their plea bargain is unusual in that the large dollar amount charged did not lead to a prison (or “prison in jail”) sentence. Instead, they received 10 years formal probation, 60 days of community labor and were ordered to pay $350,000 cash prior to their final sentencing in restitution. Other financial penalties included the forced sale of five pieces of real estate with the money going toward restitution. An additional $ 14.15 million is owed and these defendants must make good faith attempts to pay that money.

The case was typical of fraud cases. Wilson was the CEO of Bison Workforce Solutions, a Professional Employer Organization. The company was founded in Georgia and it provided business/HR and workers compensation insurance for other companies. Instead of paying for the insurance, the company (was alleged) to have pocketed the payments for insurance. The California Department of Insurance was a major participant in the investigation and the case could have been prosecuted in many jurisdictions but it was prosecuted by the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office.

The Basic California Requirements for Workers Compensation Insurance

The Bison Workforce case involved fake certificates issued to the customer employers. The basic rules for an employer are that they must have a “Certificate of Workers' Compensation Insurance” which must be written by an insurance company licensed through the California Department of Insurance. This is obviously easy to forge. The contents are simple, the CSLB must be listed as the Certificate Holder, the business name and license number must be listed and a policy number must be listed. It is wise when using an outside company to take this information and check with the actual insurance company to ensure that the policy has issues.

How Innocent Employers Can Get in Trouble

In the Bison Workforce case the employers were victims and were not charged. However, in other instances an employer may be investigated especially if its workers compensation rates and payments drop suddenly when they switch from one HR company to another (such as Bison). The employer may find that it faces financial penalties, liability for worker injuries and potential allegations of knowing (wilful) ignorance of the fraud.

Our criminal defense lawyers are workers compensation fraud experts.  If you are under investigation or charged with workers compensation fraud, call our office.  Click to learn more about our Workers Compensation Fraud Defense.