Businesses often seek employer contract services from staff-leasing firms to decrease administrative burdens. These firms help small and mid-size businesses that don’t have adequate staff to lessen their paperwork load and better manage their resources. But, if due diligence is not performed prior to hiring a professional employer firm to help out, there could be trouble. The San Antonio Business Journal reports on a man who participated in a tax fraud scheme that stole more than $133 million in payroll taxes and insurance premiums from clients.

The story reports that the owner and co-owner of nine professional employer organizations contracted with clients to manage their payroll and insurance programs. From 2002 to 2008, the two fraudsters and four other accomplices diverted the funds for their own use through a complex scheme. (Now, there’s a shocker.) The case is considered to be the largest dollar-loss mail-and tax-fraud case prosecuted in the Western District of Texas.

The 61-year-old man reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors and was the final defendant to be convicted in the case. He faces 20 years in federal prison. The other five fraudsters have already pleaded guilty to a variety of charges and are also awaiting sentencing.

This case is a perfect example of what can go wrong when a business doesn’t do their homework when signing up for an employee leasing company. The potential for damage and liability can be devastating to a smaller business that doesn’t have the staff or the funds needed to recover from the loss. (This type of crime could easily force a business to shut down.) Even though greed got the better of these six men, let’s hope that their sentencing will include restitution for the victims and vindication from any wrongdoing for their businesses.

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