There’s a worn and fading sign scotch-taped to the ice dispenser outside the Mobil service station and convenience store on State Road 100, where Zuheily Roman Rosado, a store clerk there, was murdered in an apparent hit on Feb. 21. “Donations for Zuheily’s Funeral,” the sign reads, the ink bleeding from a few rains since.
School resource deputies and the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office’s Explorers and Junior Police Academy students organized a car wash in early March for Roman’s six children–the youngest is 1, the oldest is 16–at Flagler Palm Coast High School, raising close to $3,000.
Both fundraisers might not have been as critical had the Mobil station’s workers’ compensation policy been in order. According to Florida law, if a fatal accident occurs on the job, the victim’s family is entitled to $7,500 in funeral expenses, and additional death benefits of up to $150,000.
Mohammed Ansari, the owner of the station, did not have workers’ compensation coverage at the time of Rosado’s shooting.
“As a result of Ansari not having workers’ compensation coverage, there were no death benefits provided Ms. Roman’s family,” charging affidavit filed by the Division of Insurance Fraud on March 12 reads.
That day, Ansari, 51, of Ormond Beach, was charged with Workers’ Compensation Fraud, a third-degree felony, and issued a stop work order at the Mobil station.
The work order has since been resolved, according to Deborah Jamison, a spokeswoman for the state Division of Financial Services, which oversees the insurance fraud division. “The penalty was paid,” Jamison said. “Now they’re in compliance and able to operate the station.” Jamison said that as far as the work order is concerned, the case is over, but that the financial services division could not comment on whether an investigation was continuing, and whether formal charges are being brought.
The workers’ compensation fraud charge, however, was filed at the Flagler County Courthouse and assigned to Circuit Judge J. David Walsh. Ansari himself, reached at his home Friday afternoon, said he was contesting a $1,000 penalty, and was aware of a future hearing, but had not received any notices about it. “I have to protest that because I have all the papers,” he said.
No hearing date has been set in the case, which is listed as a criminal felony, not an administrative proceeding. Jamison could not explain the discrepancy.
Ansari said there never was fraud. “Somehow they lost a check in the mail, they didn’t get it,” Ansari said of his insurer. “It was an honest mistake.” He added that he’d never received notice that the policy was cancelled. “We have proof that all the checks got cashed except this check.”
Ansari also said that he was not required to have workers’ compensation coverage at the time. “If you have four people on the payroll, you don’t need a worker’s comp,” he said, and in late February, his garage had closed and his payroll was so small that it hadn’t tripped the requirement. The garage has since reopened, he said. (Friday, the convenience store, the garage and the gas station were doing brisk business.)
Rosado, 32, was working the evening shift when, just after 10 p.m. on Feb. 21, a man who’d covered his face with a dark shirt briskly walked into the store, headed for the counter, shot Rosado, and ran out. The case remains unsolved.
The next day, Daniel Pfaff, a state investigator with the Division of Workers’ Compensation Compliance, went to the store to investigate Ansari’s workers’ compensation coverage and found that Ansari’s policy had been cancelled on Jan. 7 for non-payment of premiums, according to the charging affidavit. Ansari told Pfaff that he’d sent a check to the insurance company on Feb. 15 as payment. The investigator confirmed with the insurer that the policy had been cancelled on Jan. 7, and that there was no other coverage in effect. He then issued the stop work order.
Ansari uses a company called PayChex Insurance Agency for his payroll services and to obtain workers’ comp insurance, according to the affidavit. The policy is set up, an insurance agent told the investigator, so that Ansari is responsible for making premium payments, which go directly to AmTrust North America, PayChex’s parent company. The agent confirmed to the investigator that no payment was received on Feb. 15.
Ansari called Paychex on Feb. 25 to reinstate his policy, “but was referred to the sales department for a new policy due to the length of time since cancellation and to having a history of prior cancellation,” the charging affidavit reads. An underwriting manager said that Ansari’s policy had also been cancelled on Oct. 29, 2012, for non-payment, but was reinstated on Nov. 5, once payment was received.
The agent confirmed to the state investigator that “based on the facts of the case, there would have been benefits paid out had the policy been in effect,” according to the charging affidavit.
A Flagler County Sheriff’s spokesman Friday said the investigation into the killing of Rosado is continuing, with nothing new to report since February.
Jim Manfre, the sheriff, is the featured speaker at the March 27 meeting of the Flagler County Democratic Club, with a talk entitled “Gun Legislation, Crime and the Case of Zuheily Roman Rosado.” The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Flagler County Public Library in Palm Coast, and is open to the public.