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Fort Pierce Company Owner Charged with Grand Theft for Under-reporting Payroll to Leasing Company


TALLAHASSEE -- Florida Treasurer and Insurance Commissioner Tom Gallagher announced today that the owner of a Ft. Pierce-based fruit harvesting company has been arrested on felony theft charges for allegedly under-reporting his company's payroll to avoid more than $70,000 in workers' compensation premiums and leasing fees.

Joseph Backus Stalls, 25, of Vero Beach, owner and director of Joshua Tree, Inc., is charged in Orange County Circuit Court with grand theft. Stalls surrendered today to investigators with the Department of Insurance, Division of Insurance Fraud. The Office of Statewide Prosecution, Central Florida Bureau, will prosecute the case.

Stalls is accused of reporting only about half of his actual 2000 company payroll to his employee leasing company, Multistaff Services, to avoid almost $23,000 in leasing fees. He paid the remaining wages directly to the leased workers so that the leasing company would not know the full amount he was paying. In doing that, Stalls also avoided more than $47,000 in workers' compensation premiums to the leasing company's insurer, investigators said.

The Department of Insurance, Division of Insurance Fraud, investigates various forms of fraud in insurance, including health, life, auto, property and workers' compensation insurance. Anyone with information about this case or another possible fraud scheme should call the Department's Fraud Hotline at 1-800-378-0445. A reward of up to $25,000 is offered for information leading to a conviction.