Cullinane Plastering engaged in a yearslong scheme to defraud employees, the State Compensation Insurance Fund and California Employee Development Department
San Francisco, CA –Today, San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins announced multiple felony charges against Gemma Maher, office administrator of Cullinane Plastering, for insurance and tax fraud. Her employers, Denis Cullinane, owner of Cullinane Plastering, and Jeremiah “Jerry” Cullinane, owner of Cullinane Construction, have warrants outstanding for charges related to insurance and tax fraud.
Maher and her employers are alleged to have engaged in a yearslong scheme to defraud their victims by concealing approximately $5.8 million in unreported payroll to avoid paying insurance premiums and payroll taxes. Denis and Jerry Cullinane remain at large. The Court previously entered an order freezing all the defendants’ assets to prevent them from dissipating those assets and to preserve the funds for victim restitution. The three defendants are residents of San Francisco and operate the local construction company Cullinane Plastering.
“These inexcusable crimes victimize hard-working employees trying to earn a living and cheated taxpayers out of millions in public resources,” said District Attorney Brooke Jenkins. “Holding Cullinane accountable for these crimes is critical to ensuring that workers are protected, and the system is not exploited with inflated and unfair costs to insurers, consumers, businesses, and taxpayers. Our office will hold individuals and organizations who lie and engage in fraud accountable.”
The alleged fraud was discovered after a Cullinane Plastering employee was seriously injured while working on a job site on May 8, 2019. Instead of informing the injured worker that he was entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, Denis Cullinane, Jerry Cullinane, and Maher allegedly concealed the employee’s existence and injury from their workers’ compensation insurance carrier, State Compensation Insurance Fund (SCIF), for almost a year. When Maher finally disclosed the injury to SCIF on March 12, 2020, she made multiple alleged misrepresentations about the worker’s employment history and injury to further the fraud.
The resulting investigation revealed that Denis Cullinane, Jerry Cullinane, and Maher utilized Jerry Cullinane’s Cullinane Construction company to conceal the injured worker’s wages from SCIF and the Employment Development Department (EDD) in violation of California law. In addition, the investigation uncovered that Denis Cullinane, Jerry Cullinane, and Maher submitted allegedly fraudulent employee payroll information to SCIF from 2018 through 2020 and to EDD from 2017 through 2020. These fraudulent reports artificially lowered their workers’ compensation insurance premiums and tax contributions—both of which are determined in part by employee payroll. This resulted in an estimated $270,000 loss to SCIF in unpaid premiums and an estimated loss to EDD of over $300,000 in unpaid payroll taxes (and over $1.5 million in unpaid taxes and penalties).
“Exposing fraud is critical to protecting workers and law-abiding businesses, who pay the price through higher insurance premiums when employees are legitimately injured on the job,” said Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara. “The California Department of Insurance is committed to working with our law enforcement partners to root out fraud and protect consumers.”
This case was developed through a multi-agency operation led by San Francisco District Attorney Senior Investigator Jennifer Kennedy and conducted in collaboration with investigators from the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, the California Department of Insurance, and the Employment Development Department. Assistant District Attorneys Stephanie Zudekoff and Rebecca Friedemann are the prosecutors assigned to the case.
Court number: 22008596