Federal agents raided the St. Petersburg headquarters of Universal Health Care on Thursday, as the insurer found itself at the center of a fraud investigation.
Agents with the FBI and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General began the raid as employees arrived at work.
"They came in, they said, 'Get away from the desks, federal warrant, please go outside,'" said Niki Shepherd, who got to work shortly after authorities entered the office.
The is the latest development surrounded the embattled company. The state recently took over Universal Health Care, which now faces liquidation at the end of the month.
The company then notified employees Wednesday that they were being laid off and their last day at work would be Friday.
"We felt like we were just kind of like blindsided by this," said Richard Kane, who has worked at the company for almost a year.
"I can't believe I'm out of a job. I thought I was working for a great company and it was full of liars and now I have to find a job," Shepherd said. "A month ago [the owner of the company] told us everything was fine, go buy a car. So he's been lying to us this entire time."
Federal agents won't specifically say what they're looking for or what they're confiscating.
"Our primary mission is to investigate allegations of health care fraud," stated Ryan Lynch, a special agent with the DHHS-OIS. "Put it this way; we have a federal search warrant that was signed by a federal judge."
Attorneys representing several employees said they filed a class-action lawsuit Thursday against Universal Health Care, accusing its management of not giving workers the 60 days' notice of mass layoffs, as required by law.
Some employees said they saw the writing on the wall when the company's legal troubles started and began preparing to have to look for a new job.
"Yeah it was surprising, but did I think [a federal investigation] wouldn't happen? Probably not," said Samantha Badgley, who has worked at Universal Health Care for about two years. "I'm looking for a job. I've been looking for a job and I'm going to continue to look for a job."
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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