Volume 5, No. 1 - January 2016

News You Can Use

- Updating you on what's going on

Bradenton Insurance Agent Arrested After Defrauding Client of More Than $200,000 in Annuity Payments

The Florida Division of Insurance Fraud (DIF), which operates under the direction of CFO Jeff Atwater, announced the arrest of Timothy T. Rush, a 38-year-old Bradenton-based insurance agent, for allegedly stealing $224,600 from an unsuspecting Port Charlotte resident; funds that were believed to have been used to purchase an insurance annuity.

In early 2015, the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office received a complaint involving Timothy T. Rush after one of his clients suspected the money he had been paid was not being used for the insurance annuities that Rush and his client had agreed upon. Following that initial complaint, DIF and Florida’s Division of Agents and Agency Services' Bureau of Investigation launched an independent investigation into the practices of Timothy Rush.

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Two Unlicensed South Florida Clinic Owners Use Straw Owner to Defraud Insurance Companies of More Than $650,000

The Florida Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud (DIF) announced the arrest of two unlicensed clinic owners from Miami-Dade County. Noel Ruiz of Miami and Alberto B. Franco of Hialeah were involved in a “straw owner” scheme that defrauded numerous insurance companies, resulting in more than $650,000 in financial losses.

An investigation led by DIF revealed that in the time between December 2012 and September 2014, Alberto Franco and Noel Ruiz both failed to carry the proper licensing required to own a rehab clinic and allegedly used a “straw owner” to bypass Florida’s licensing requirements.

A “straw owner” is a person who owns a business or property on someone else’s behalf. By portraying legal ownership of the property or business through legal documentation, the actual owner of the business is essentially left off of the books. In some cases, this scenario would occur as a legal way to keep the identity of the actual owner of the entity hidden. In other cases, a “straw owner” would act as a pawn to establish a business in order for unlicensed agents to conduct nefarious or illegal transactions under a legitimate license.

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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT….
Can't Miss Comments from CFO Atwater Regarding SB 966- A Bill to Protect Life Insurance Policyholders

From the Florida Channel Video Archives
January 19, 2016
Senate Banking & Insurance Committee
Regarding SB 966

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater presented yesterday’s Senate Banking & Insurance Committee’s presentation of SB 966, a life insurance bill sponsored by committee chair Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto. SB 966’s House companion bill is HB 1041, sponsored by Representative Bill Hager.

Excerpts from the CFO’s remarks:

“For years (these) insurance companies had no trouble sending their agents to their house (consumers) for the weekly payment. They knew exactly where they lived for 20 years.

“But now that it may be time to pay up, it’s a horrified hardship to find that individual. That’s spectacular in its argument.

“You have a chance today to be sure that individuals retrospectively – (regarding) money that is sitting in someone else’s portfolio who knows they have long since expired – make just an effort to electronically match the names and send a notification to the last known address.

“Somebody was (once) sitting at the dining room table of a young couple, and they handed them a pen (life insurance policy) and said ‘I’ll be there on your worst day, I promise. What if they had said this instead, ‘I’m handing you this pen (life insurance policy) and I suggest you think about the odyssey of the life ahead. You’re going to move more than once, you’re going to change careers, there will be good days and there will be bad days – if this pen (life insurance policy) ends up in a cardboard box in the attic, we have no intention of making good until that person who owns it finds it and then finds us. Because we will have most assuredly moved too, we’ll have changed names, we’ll be bought and sold, but only if you find us with this document – no matter how technology changes in the future – we’ll use it to our benefit to stop annuity payments, but we won’t use it to your benefit.’”

“They would have been thrown off of every dining room table and out of every living room in this country.”

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Commissioner McCarty Announcement

Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin M. McCarty announced that he is resigning effective May 2, 2016 to pursue other job opportunities. Commissioner McCarty has served as the only appointed Insurance Commissioner for the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation since it was originally created in 2003.

“The privilege of serving the people of Florida as Insurance Commissioner has been the highlight of my professional career,” McCarty stated. “I am proud of the tremendous accomplishments achieved during my tenure and am grateful to the outstanding and talented staff at the Office of Insurance Regulation who made them possible. It has been an honor to work with various Florida governors, cabinet members, legislators and industry stakeholders in meeting the many challenges faced by our state over the last 12 years.”

“I am looking forward to exploring new opportunities that will allow me to use the skills, knowledge and expertise I’ve gained as Insurance Commissioner. In the meantime, I will continue my service and provide whatever assistance is desired to facilitate a smooth transition.”

For a list of Commissioner McCarty’s accomplishments during his tenure with the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, please click here.​

Click here to read the press release>>

Serial Arsonist Arrested in Altamonte Springs Arson Case

The Florida State Fire Marshal’s Office, which operates under the direction of the Florida Department of Financial Services and CFO Jeff Atwater, announced the arrest of Travis Michael Pierce, 27, for allegedly setting two separate structure fires at the local golf club, “The Links at 434”, club house in Altamonte Springs on January 1st and 4th, 2016. Pierce, a former volunteer firefighter from Pennsylvania, is not new to arson charges.

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Office Approves Removal of Up to 71,500 Policies from Citizens for March 2016 Take-Out

The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (Office) has approved the removal of up to 70,000 personal residential policies and 1,500 commercial residential polices from Citizens Property Insurance Corporation (Citizens). The following two companies have been approved to participate:

· Heritage Property & Casualty Insurance Company – approved to remove up to 55,000 personal residential policies (35,000 Personal Lines Account and 20,000 Coastal Account) and up to 1,500 commercial residential policies (1,300 Commercial Lines Account and 200 Coastal Account)

· Southern Oak Insurance Company – approved to remove up to 15,000 personal residential policies (10,000 Personal Lines Account and 5,000 Coastal Account

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Office Issues 2015 Workers’ Compensation Annual Report

The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (Office) has released the 2015 Workers' Compensation Annual Report to the Florida Legislature.

The Office’s analysis shows Florida’s market continues to remain competitive, well capitalized and affordable with more than 250 private insurance companies writing over $2.5 billion in premium. Of the six most populous states analyzed, Florida is one of only two where a private market insurance company is the largest insurance company in the state rather than a state-created residual market entity. Private insurance companies dominate the market by writing more than 95% of the workers’ compensation coverage.

A rate decrease of 4.7% effective on January 1, 2016, the second in two years, represents a 60.3% cumulative reduction in Florida’s workers’ compensation rates since the 2003 legislative reforms were passed. This is an indication the reform measures delivered the desired result and lowered costs dramatically.

Although these reforms continue to benefit the market overall, it is likely their impact may have reached maximum effectiveness. Several pending court cases, which could negatively affect the workers’ compensation market by leading to increased rates and the state’s inability to retain its competitive advantage in this area, are being closely monitored by the Office.

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Florida Office of Financial Regulation Wraps Up 2015 with Fast Facts

The Florida Office of Financial Regulation (OFR) released the third edition of its Fast Facts, providing a comprehensive overview of the agency’s responsibilities and successes in the 2014-15 Fiscal Year.

“Fast Facts highlights the Florida Office of Financial Regulation’s key functions and agency data, including successes, tips on financial fraud awareness and prevention,” said OFR Commissioner Drew J. Breakspear. “This booklet is a concise and handy resource, and we encourage consumers in Florida to take advantage of this free information.”

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We highly recommend that licensees routinely check their MyProfile account(s) for messages from the Department. We send an email notification at the same time to remind you to check your MyProfile account but on rare occasions you may not receive that email. For that reason, we suggest you add our domains dfs.state.fl.us and MyFloridaCFO.com to your email software's Trusted or Safe Senders List to ensure you are able to receive email notifications from us. Licensees who have a valid email address on file with the Department, as required by law, are sent important email notifications when something that affects their application, license, continuing education, or appointment(s) occurs. Additionally, we will keep you informed with warnings regarding new schemes and scams being marketed to licensees. You can update your contact information through your MyProfile account. We want to keep you informed in a timely manner of pertinent information. You are still required to abide by the Florida Insurance Code regardless of whether you read the information we provide or attempt to provide.