Aaron Capannelli, 26, owner of LumberJax Tree Service, failed to provide workers' compensation insurance, which means that the family of the deceased worker may not receive death benefits, according to Florida authorities.
Capannelli surrendered to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office earlier this month and could face up to 30 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The surrender occurred following an investigation by the Florida Department of Financial Services' Division of Insurance Fraud.
"This is an especially sad case where a family has to deal with financial burden in addition to their grief," said Florida Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher, who oversees the Department of Financial Services. "Workers' compensation coverage ensures workers, especially those in high-risk jobs, have a safety net in the event of an accident. Employers who break the law and do not provide this coverage put their employees and their families at great risk and unfairly compete with law-abiding businesses."
The department's Division of Workers' Compensation, Bureau of Compliance, conducted the investigation after the June 14 death of Capannelli's employee, Carl Jernigan, who perished when his tree trimming equipment came in contact with a power line.
At the time of his death, Jernigan was 2 days shy of celebrating his 22nd birthday.
The investigation confirmed that Capannelli and four employees were working at a private residence without workers' compensation coverage, a violation of Florida law.
Authorities issued a stop-work order and a request for business records. As a result of the stop-work order, Capannelli was assessed a fine of $1,000 and was arrested by insurance fraud detectives on the felony charge.