For Immediate Release - December 11, 2009

Attorney General Martha Coakley's Office Announces Guilty Plea and Sentence of Roofing Company Owner for Failing to Pay Over $119,000 in Workers' Compensation Insurance

BOSTON - Today, the owner of a contracting and roofing company pled guilty in Suffolk Superior Court in connection with not paying the proper workers' compensation insurance by misclassifying his employees and filing false tax returns over a five-year period. Richard Copeland, age 43, of Blackstone, owner of Copeland Contracting Inc. (CCI), pled guilty to charges of Unemployment Fraud (20 counts), Larceny over $250 (4 counts), Aiding or Assisting in Fraudulent Tax Returns (60 counts), and Workers' Compensation Fraud (3 counts). Following the change of plea, Suffolk Superior Court Judge Carol Ball sentenced Copeland to three-and-a-half years probation and ordered him to pay restitution in the amount of $146,851.45. Copeland was also ordered to complete 100 hours of community service. Copeland must pay $70,000 of the total restitution on or before January 1, 2010.

During the period of November 2003 through January 2008, Copeland held workers' compensation policies with three different insurance companies. During that time, Copeland avoided paying the proper premium for these policies by misclassifying the type of work his employees performed. Copeland classified his employees as carpenters instead of roofers. During this five-year time period, three workers suffered serious injuries on work sites where CCI was doing business. When the injured workers filed workers' compensation claims with CCI's insurance companies, the insurance companies discovered that none of the injured employees were listed on CCI's payroll. One of the insurance companies then contacted the Massachusetts Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB) as a result of the discrepancies between the payroll records and an injured worker's claim.

As a result of these payroll and misclassification inconsistencies, the IFB conducted an investigation. The IFB's investigation revealed that Copeland had employed over 16 full-time roofers since he initiated the first workers' compensation insurance policy in November 2003. After completing its investigation, the IFB referred the matter to the Attorney General's Office in May 2008 for further investigation. As a result of this scheme, Copeland avoided paying a total of approximately $119,000 in workers compensation premiums during the five-year period.

In addition to this scheme, Copeland filed false unemployment contribution reports with the Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) by misrepresenting the number of employees he had in his company for each quarter for approximately five years. By falsely reporting the number of his employees to the DUA, Copeland did not pay approximately $27,000 in mandatory unemployment contribution fees.

Copeland also falsified the company's tax returns by failing to withhold state and federal income tax from all of his employees. Investigators discovered that Copeland paid many of his employees in cash and failed to accurately report his payroll.

Indictments were returned against Copeland on March 26, 2009. Copeland was arraigned in Suffolk Superior Court on April 24, 2009, at which time he entered a plea of not guilty and was released on personal recognizance. Today, Copeland entered a change of plea to guilty and was sentenced in Suffolk Superior Court.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Jeremy Eisemann and was investigated by Luke Goldworm, both of Attorney General Martha Coakley's Insurance and Unemployment Fraud Division. Investigators from the IFB also investigated and assisted in this case.