CFO Alex Sink's Consumer eViews Newsletter

FLORIDA CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER ALEX SINK'S NEWSLETTER

Volume 5 Number 44 October 31, 2008

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As many of you know, more Floridians have registered to vote in this election than ever before: over 430,000 new voters signed up since January’s primary. While both candidates traverse our state with hopes of winning the coveted 27 electoral votes up for grabs, the most important thing we can do as citizens is take advantage of the democratic process and vote.

Also this weekend – tonight especially – many families and friends will partake in fun Halloween festivities. Have a wonderfully bewitching time, but also please be cautious of traffic when trick-or-treating, be sure to stay in well-lit areas, and be careful of open flames around loose-fitting costumes.

Enjoy your weekend, and most importantly, don’t forget to vote either before or on Election Day!


CFO Alex Sink appoints Sean Shaw as Florida's Insurance Consumer Advocate

Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink Friday appointed Tallahassee attorney Sean Shaw as Florida’s Insurance Consumer Advocate, effective November 17, 2008.

Inspired by his father, the first African-American judge to serve as Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court, Shaw is driven to advocate on behalf of Floridians who don’t have a voice on insurance issues.

“Floridians have a passionate advocate in Sean Shaw as our Insurance Consumer Advocate,” said CFO Sink, who oversees the Office of the Insurance Consumer Advocate and Department of Financial Services. “Sean is committed to speaking out and defending Florida’s insurance consumers against insurance companies committing bad practices.”

“I’m honored that CFO Sink has given me the opportunity to serve Floridians as their Insurance Consumer Advocate,” said Shaw. “It’s time for Floridians to have a larger influence when it comes to insurance matters in this state.”

CFO Sink also recognized General Bob Milligan, who previously served as the Insurance Consumer Advocate and this summer announced his retirement after serving as Interim Executive Director of the State Board of Administration. “General Milligan has selflessly advocated on behalf of Floridians and been a tremendous public servant for the people of Florida,” said CFO Sink.

Sean Shaw, Insurance Consumer Advocate— Shaw is an associate at Messer, Caparello & Self, P.A., and most recently ran for the Florida House of Representatives, District 8. Previously, he served as a litigation/appellate associate at Akerman Senterfitt Law Firm. Shaw is a Tallahassee native and graduate of Leon High School. He went to Princeton University where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree and earned his Juris Doctorate from University of Florida, Levin School of Law.

CFO Sink has a three-pronged vision for the Insurance Consumer Advocate, which includes:


CFO Sink receives honor at State of Israel Bonds dinner

Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink was honored at the Israel Bonds Corporate and Doctor’s Dinner held at B’Nai Torah congregation in Boca Raton this week for her long-standing support of the State of Israel and her support of Florida’s Treasury and SBA in purchasing Israel Bonds.

Proceeds from the sale of Israel bonds are utilized by Israel’s Finance Ministry for key economic projects. Many of these projects were essential to solidifying Israel’s post-independence economy. Florida holds roughly $120 million in State of Israel Bonds in the state’s Treasury and in its pension and other funds portfolios.

In support of the State of Israel, Florida set the standards for the Nation in 2007 with the passage of a bill, passed without opposition, directing the divesture of Florida’s investments in companies doing business in Iran and Sudan by September 2008.

“I am proud to report that not only have we met Florida’s goals for divesting our investments in these regions, we did so by July 1, 2008 – three months ahead of the Legislature’s September deadline,” said CFO Sink.


CFO Sink presents resolution honoring Veterans Day on November 11

On Tuesday a number of veteran representatives were at the Cabinet meeting as Veterans Day was recognized with a resolution from the Governor and Cabinet.

Retired Rear Admiral LeRoy Collins Jr., who serves as Executive Director of the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs, escorted the following distinguished guests to the podium:

The Cabinet members and Governor joined all Floridians in saluting the courageous men and women of our Armed Forces, past and present, as we prepare to observe Veterans Day on November 11th.

More than 1.7 million veterans call Florida home, and this opportunity is taken to honor their service and sacrifice in assuring our American way of life.

The families of our veterans are also honored -- who through their love, support and sacrifice -- also serve our nation.

With this resolution, all Floridians are encouraged to participate in the many Veteran’s Day activities that are planned throughout the state.

Read the resolution.


CFO Sink helps South Florida senior recover more than $217,000 from an inappropriate annuity transaction

Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink’s investigators recently helped Kikuko West, a Vero Beach senior, recover more than $217,000 in potential losses after she allegedly was tricked into prematurely replacing an existing annuity by an area insurance agent. Kikuko, 75, contacted the Department of Financial Services (DFS) after hearing about CFO Sink’s newly created “Safeguard our Seniors”(SOS) Task Force, which is examining ways the state can reduce financial fraud against Florida seniors.

CFO Sink’s office has also helped recover more than $300,000 for an 81-year-old woman from New Port Richey as well as nearly $325,000 for an 82-year-old living in Daytona who were both scammed into purchasing inappropriate annuity investments and called the department for help.

“Every year, my department investigates hundreds of bad actors who prey upon Florida seniors, like Kikuko, luring them into inappropriate investments,” said CFO Sink, who oversees DFS. “We created the ‘Safeguard Our Seniors’ Task Force to identify how our state can better protect seniors from financial threats, starting with annuity fraud.”

According to Kikuko, the agent attempted to replace her and her husband’s existing annuity policy with a new one. The agent had committed in writing not to finalize the transaction or transfer any funds until Kikuko and her husband returned from a trip up north. Despite the written commitment, the agent proceeded with the transfer of funds.

After reviewing other paperwork left behind by the agent, CFO Sink’s investigators were able to determine that the agent appeared to have violated Florida law, which requires that buyers have a 15-day free look period without penalty once the contract is received. At the time of the funds transfer, Kikuko had not yet been presented with a contract. DFS is now investigating the agent’s actions in this case.

To learn more about the SOS Task Force or what to consider when purchasing annuities, visit www.FLSeniors.net.  Senior Floridians who believe they may have been the victim of annuity fraud should call 1-877-My-FL-CFO or log on to www.MyFloridaCFO.com  to file a complaint.


Dr. James H. Ammons installed as tenth FAMU President

CFO Alex Sink participated in the installation ceremony of James H. Ammons, Ph.D., as the tenth president of Florida A&M University. The administration, faculty, staff, students and the entire FAMU community joined in the celebration.

CFO Sink brought greetings on behalf of the State of Florida and congratulated Dr. Ammons on his achievements over the past year.

“Preserving the Legacy of Excellence in a New Era” is an appropriate theme for this auspicious occasion. For 121 years, Florida A&M University has maintained a legacy of educating the best and the brightest students.

“Excellence with caring” is much more than motto for the school. It is a philosophy manifested in the brilliant minds that are being trained and cultivated at FAMU.

CFO Sink had the privilege to work with Dr. Ammons to provide an opportunity for 18 FAMU students to attend the Academy of Leadership Excellence program, where students spent the summer working in the Florida Department of Financial Services. The students served in a professional capacity and received real-world work experience, professional development, and career opportunities in public service.

FAMU’s continued existence and the graduation of bright and talented students is critical to the health and vibrancy of the state of Florida.


Halloween safety tips for motorists and young pedestrians

 

Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink cautions Florida motorists and young pedestrians to be safe during Halloween trick or treat travels. Here are a few safety tips parents and young pedestrians should follow:

Motorists

Young Pedestrians and Parents

The number of deaths among young pedestrians is four times higher on Halloween night than any other night of the year. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that fatal collisions between motor vehicles and young pedestrians are more frequent between the hours of 4pm and 8pm on Halloween night. In the excitement, children may not be mindful of their surroundings as motorists are rushing home in the dawn of the evening.

Motorists, pedestrians and parents should follow safety guidelines to help ensure a safe and fun Halloween.


CFO Sink: Insurance fraud investigation lands South Florida attorney in prison

Disbarred lawyer will spend a year in prison for stealing insurance funds

Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink announced today that a South Florida attorney has been disbarred and has been ordered to surrender on Nov. 7, 2008, to serve 366 days in a Florida prison after an investigation by the Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud (DFS) led to numerous felony charges for stealing insurance settlement payments from clients.

Anthony Scalese, of Pembroke Pines, was convicted and sentenced Friday by Broward County Circuit Judge Pedro Dijols. He was arrested in April 2008 on charges of organized fraud, grand theft, and uttering forged documents, and faced a possible sentence of up to 30 years in prison. He pleaded no contest to two felony charges of organized scheme to defraud and forgery. In addition to the disbarment and prison sentence, Scalese was ordered to serve 15 years probation, pay more than $78,000 in additional restitution for a total of $113,500 in restitution to the identified victims, and pay more than $1,600 for investigative costs. If Scalese fails to surrender on November 7, 2008, he will be sentenced to 35 years in prison.

“Floridians depend on their attorneys to advocate on their behalf, and this attorney deserves to spend time behind bars for violating that trust,” said CFO Sink, who oversees DFS. “It is just patently wrong when consumers have to fight not only their insurance companies but their attorneys as well.”

DFS lead detective Gary Schiaffo found that Scalese had received settlement monies from insurance carriers on behalf of his clients but never forwarded the funds to the clients that needed the money. Instead, Scalese deposited the funds into his personal account. Scalese was initially arrested on December 19, 2007, based on similar allegations. Then, Detective Schiaffo uncovered four more victims and advised Assistant State Attorney David Schulson, which led to additional charges.

DFS offers a reward of up to $25,000 for information directly leading to an arrest or conviction. To report suspected fraud, call 1-877-My-FL-CFO (1-877-693-5236) and ask for the Fraud Hotline.



My Family CFO

Are you the chief financial officer of your family? Are you always looking out for the best deals, wise investments and smart moves for your family's financial security?

As your family's fiscal watch dog, keep an eye on this column for money-smart ideas from the Chief Financial Officer of Florida, Alex Sink.
 

Idea: How to save on holiday decorations

If you love decorating your home for all sorts of occasions but want to save on festive décor that can be quite costly, one of the best things to do is buy decorations after the holiday.

This weekend, stores will be trying to clear the shelves of Halloween merchandise to make way for Thanksgiving and Christmas adornments, so many of the ghosts and scarecrows, skeletons and costumes will be marked down fifty to even seventy-five percent off. If you buy them now, put them in a clearly marked “Halloween” box and store them until next year, your home will be just as festive as your neighbors’ at a fraction of the cost.

Make this a habit following Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter or any other time you’re in the spirit, and you’ll be thankful – and have saved significantly – for holidays in years to come.


 Energy tips for Florida families - these actions represent ways to behave kindly toward Mother Earth, AND save money as well as energy.

These tips are presented by CFO Alex Sink's science advisor Meg Lowman, Ph.D., on the faculty at New College of Florida. Dr. Lowman has written numerous award-winning books and is an expert on the rainforests of the world.

The best energy tip for this week

 

The best energy tip for every Floridian during this first week of November 2008 is simply: VOTE.

Each candidate has different priorities for energy and the future of education which interfaces directly with energy and our ability to conserve energy. So, by voting, you will be directly impacting your future energy policies.