As Florida’s Chief Financial Officer, I have the honor of serving as
Florida’s State Fire Marshal. Each day, the men and women of the State
Fire Marshal’s office work hard to keep you safe and get to the bottom
of arson cases in every region of our state. The dedication and
diligence of this team to protect our fellow Floridians was the driving
force behind the bust of an arson ring in Miami this week.
On Wednesday, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle stood with
to announce the arrests of 20 individuals who were part of an arson ring
wreaking havoc across Miami-Dade County. At the center of the ring was an
individual who orchestrated the participants renting 10 different homes, setting
fire to those homes and collecting more than $1.5 million in insurance claims.
These individuals will be charged with more than 300 felony counts, with one of
the key conspirators being charged with 39 felony counts alone.
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These arsonists endanger innocent residents for their personal financial
gains. I am proud of the work of the men and women on the ground in the State
Fire Marshal’s office, and I thank our partners at the Miami-Dade Police
Department and State Attorney’s Office for helping us put these criminals behind
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida
Employers Support the Guard & Reserve
This week, CFO Atwater sponsored a resolution recognizing Thursday,
May 17, 2012, as Florida Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Day
(ESGR) across the state. On Thursday, representatives from the CFO’s
Divisions of Insurance Fraud and State Fire Marshal, as well as law
enforcement officials from across the state, signed a “Statement of
Support” to show their appreciation for those who serve their country at
a moment’s notice.
Employers play a vital role in the defense of the nation by working
with the brave men and women in the Guard and Reserve. The ESGR is an
invaluable resource for both employers and the National Guard and
military reserve members who work for them. It is essential to maintain
employer support for service members of the National Guard and military
reserves by recognizing outstanding contributions and efforts by
employers and increasing awareness of the laws that support Florida
National Guard and military reserve service.
Take time this week to thank those who are in the Guard and Reserve
for being on the front lines when America needs them most.
Arrest of Scammer for Investment Fraud
Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater announced the arrest
of former insurance agent Neal Seth Smalbach, 49, of Palm Harbor,
for grand theft in misrepresenting details of financial products to
multiple senior clients who allegedly suffered losses of more than
$2 million in unsuitable financial investments.
“Florida’s seniors have worked hard for many years to earn their money and
prepare for retirement,” CFO Atwater said. “Criminals who choose to prey on the
elderly for their own financial gain will be caught and they will be brought to
An investigation by the Department of Financial Services Division of
Insurance Fraud revealed that Smalbach allegedly misrepresented the factual
details of investment products to multiple senior citizens for personal gain. As
a result of Smalbach’s misrepresentations, an estimated $4.6 million was
invested by seniors in products that were unsuitable for them.
The Division of Agent and Agency Services also conducted
an investigation of Smalbach and alleged that he falsified
two applications for insurance to an insurer. On March 22,
2012, the division entered into a settlement with Smalbach
providing for the surrender of his licenses with the same
force and effect as a revocation and his permanent ban from
the insurance industry. Smalbach was booked into Pinellas
County Jail and is awaiting bond. If convicted, he faces up
to 54 years in prison. The Office of Statewide Prosecution
will prosecute the charges against Smalbach.
CFO Atwater encourages seniors to visit the On Guard for
www.MyFloridaCFO.com/OnGuard, for tips and resources
designed to help seniors navigate through challenging
financial decisions and avoid financial scams. For
additional information, visit www.MyFloridaCFO.com or call
the department’s Consumer Helpline at 1-877-MY-FL-CFO
Anyone with information about these or any other
incidents of suspected insurance fraud is asked to call
1-800-378-0445. Citizens who provide tips can remain
anonymous. The Department of Financial Services to date has
awarded almost $275,000 to more than 40 citizens as part of
its Anti-Fraud Reward Program. The program rewards
individuals up to $25,000 for information that directly
leads to an arrest and conviction in an insurance fraud
A Roadmap for your Financial Future
The spring issue of Florida’s Bottom Line focuses on how Florida can attract
much-needed investors to support Florida’s entrepreneurs,
who can effectively grow health care, technology and manufacturing in our
state's burgeoning economy. Our companion website provides the most up-to-date
financial and economic statistics for Florida, serving as a roadmap for your
Visit Florida's Bottom Line website at