Volume 8 Number 3 January 21, 2011
Dear Fellow Floridians:
This Wednesday marked a historic time in Florida. It was the first time in a century that an entirely new Cabinet met, and I was honored to be a part of it. Together, we will bring new vision and leadership to Florida.
Shortly after the Cabinet meeting, I was able to share my vision and top priorities for the Department of Financial Services at the Associated Press editors' meeting. That vision includes charting an aggressive course to foster transparency and prudent governance of the state’s budget and contracts; reduce government spending; and combat financial fraud. We will accomplish these goals by identifying cost drivers that are placing a financial burden on Floridians. We will target inefficiencies in state government and direct those savings back to taxpayers, foster transparency that exposes how taxpayers' dollars are spent and give Floridians the ability to scrutinize spending.
I also firmly believe it is essential for Floridians to understand the impact of the decisions made here in the Capitol. The money we appropriate does not belong to us. It belongs to all Floridians. Each one of you has the right and responsibility to review expenditures and hold us, your elected officials, to the highest standards. Transparency always ensures accountability.
State of Florida
My thoughts and prayers go out to the family, friends and colleagues of veteran Miami-Dade detectives Roger Castillo and Amanda Haworth killed in the line of duty on Thursday. They paid the ultimate sacrifice ensuring the safety of the citizens of Miami-Dade County. I salute their service and ask that you keep their families in your thoughts.
Florida CFO Jeff Atwater on Monday ordered the emergency suspension of a Lake Worth insurance agent’s license after he allegedly misappropriated automobile insurance premiums and issued bogus insurance identification cards to consumers.
Hector Marcano, 47, owner of American Dream Insurance Services, allegedly misappropriated automobile insurance premium funds from at least three different Florida insurance consumers in the past year.
“Mr. Marcano’s actions have deprived these consumers of the necessary coverage putting them at risk of financial and physical harm,” said CFO Atwater. “I will not allow an insurance agent to conduct business in the state of Florida without the highest standards of honesty and integrity.”
The Division of Agent and Agency Services investigated the allegations after consumers filed complaints. Marcano confessed that he collected insurance premium funds, failed to forward the proper money to insurance companies to secure coverage, and provided fraudulent insurance cards. The Division of Insurance Fraud arrested Marcano in October 2010 and again this month related to the allegations. The criminal court cases are pending.
CFO Atwater encourages all Florida insurance consumers to “Verify Before You Buy” by visiting www.MyFloridaCFO.com. Consumers who have questions about insurance can call CFO Atwater’s Consumer Helpline at 1-850-413-3089 or 1-877-MY-FL-CFO (877-693-5236).
Since April 20, 2010, Florida’s business community has worked tirelessly to rebuild and work through challenges as a result of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. Throughout the claims process, these business owners were met with unanswered questions, broken promises and rejection. From the beginning, the Florida Department of Financial Services (DFS) has assisted these claimants and advocated for them.
Candi Cook was one of these business owners. Her emergency claim was denied by the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF). Her claim was for a small amount, but it was the difference between paying her bills and keeping her business, or losing all she had worked for. Working with our department, Cook was able to have her claim re-reviewed and she received full payment of her emergency claim.
After going through seven claims adjusters, Jeff Elbert had almost lost hope that he would be able to save his four retail stores located on the beach. One day, a Department staff person walked into Elbert’s Pensacola Beach store to ask how his business had been impacted. With the help of DFS, Elbert received payment for his emergency claim and has been a voice for other business owners.
These are only two examples of how DFS has worked to help Florida’s businesses and workforce stay on their feet as the impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill continues to make its mark.
If you or someone you know has questions or needs assistance with oil spill claims or issues contact the Department of Financial Services at 877-693-5236 or get help through our website.
Please read the attached letter from Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater to Kenneth Feinberg, BP Claims Administrator formally requesting that a representative of the Florida Department of Financial Services participate in developing the methodology being created to determine claims payments.
Diosdado Marin and his family of the Casa Marin restaurant in Hialeah define the spirit of entrepreneurship.
It is small business owners like Diosdado that are the key to the success of Florida’s economy.
Florida CFO and State Fire Marshal Jeff Atwater on Thursday joined with the Florida State Fire College, Florida Fire Chiefs Association, Small County Coalition of Florida, and the Florida Association of Counties Trust (FACT) to announce a partnership to provide a new training program and scholarship funding for volunteer firefighters in Florida.
The training will meet the minimum standards as required by Florida law and combine online and practical skill training components. FACT presented $16,000 in scholarship funds to the Fire College at a ceremony Thursday at the Fire Rescue EAST Trade Show in Daytona Beach to provide reimbursement for FACT counties who participate in the training.
“I applaud the Florida Association of Counties Trust for establishing this scholarship fund for volunteer firefighters in training, assuring our citizens are better protected and our firefighters have the training they need to work safely and go home every night,” said CFO Atwater. “The new combined training program will reduce training costs, which is very important during these difficult financial times, and help increase the number of trained volunteers.”
As Florida’s State Fire Marshal, CFO Atwater oversees the State Fire College, which is responsible for ensuring firefighters are trained according to state law. The College’s registration and records management website, www.floridastatefirecollege.org, allows firefighters to check their records, track continuing education, register for classes at the Florida State Fire College and other participating providers, apply for certification renewals, apply for certification tests and receive test results.
The scope of the Department of Financial Services’ fraud fight is expanding this year from insurance fraud, arson and taxpayer fraud to public assistance fraud. Florida CFO Jeff Atwater said the Public Assistance Fraud (PAF) Program has an important focus to ensure those who need the services have access by stopping fraud and abuse.
“I welcome this program and the opportunity we will have to improve it for those who need these services,” CFO Atwater said. “Floridians are struggling financially right now and want to ensure that every tax dollar is spent where it is needed, and fraud and abuse is a drain on our entire economy.” The program transferred from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) this month as a result of the passage of Senate Bill 1484 during last year’s legislative session.
PAF’s 63 employees, located around the state, will investigate the misuse and abuse of the state’s public assistance programs under the direction of Division Director Randy Burkhalter and Assistant Director Russ Fernandes.
Director Burkhalter, second from left, back row, is shown with the Tallahassee field office staff.
Between 2005 and 2010, PAF uncovered $18 million in program benefit fraud as a result of fraudulent applications. Findings of fraud result in criminal prosecutions and the denial of future benefit eligibility. For more information about PAF, please visit our website.
To be eligible for a reverse mortgage, you must be at least 62 years of age, own your home, and be living in it as your primary residence. The amount you are eligible for depends on your age, interest rates and the value of your home. Most reverse mortgages are set up for seniors to receive monthly payments.
Finally, remember the general rule of thumb is “if you don’t understand it, don’t do it!” Before you make any final decision, make sure you seek the advice of family, a financial advisor or a trusted and knowledgeable friend.