Dear Fellow Floridian:
As Florida’s State Fire Marshal, I have the privilege and honor of working alongside our state’s courageous firefighters, and every day I am inspired by these men and women who risk everything in the name of their fellow Floridians. Last Friday, as family and friends gathered in Ocala for the 2013 Fallen Firefighter Memorial, it was a visible reminder of how great these risks are when firefighters dedicate themselves to ensuring the safety of others.
There are few professions in the world more admired than that of a firefighter. They are truly among Florida’s finest, and I am eternally grateful for their service.
Eight firefighters were memorialized at this year’s fallen firefighter service. I hope you will join me in recognizing their tremendous contributions to our state.
Joseph R. Barrett - West Sebring Volunteer Fire Dept.
Leon L. Benton - Jacksonville Fire Department
John M. Byers, Jr. - Ocean Reef Volunteer Fire Dept.
James A. Parks - Hialeah Fire Department
Roy Pratt - City of Orlando Fire Department
Brian E. Reed - West Manatee Fire Rescue
Victor B. Scott - Otter Creek Volunteer Fire Dept.
Frank A. Smith - Cape Coral Fire Department
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida
Clinic Owner Convicted in PIP Fraud Ring
On Monday Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater announced the conviction of David Rodriguez Lopez, 46, a Tampa clinic owner, for orchestrating a large scale personal injury protection (PIP) fraud scheme in Tampa and Jacksonville. Lopez, who will be sentenced in November, faces up to 75 years in prison.
“This is a great win in the fight against PIP fraud in Florida,” said CFO Atwater. “I applaud our fraud investigators in Jacksonville and our dedicated prosecutor at the State Attorney’s Office, because it takes a well-coordinated effort from the fraud prevention community to bring a fraud ring leader to justice.”
An investigation conducted by the Florida Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud revealed that Lopez directed the opening of Indian Rehabilitation Center Inc., located at 3636 University Boulevard South in Jacksonville. Lopez previously owned General Rehabilitation Center and Crystal Rehabilitation Center located in Tampa.
Since March 2012, 26 staged accidents have occurred involving more than 60 individuals claiming to have been treated at Indian Rehab Center. The investigation revealed that many claims included treatment involving equipment the facility did not possess or treatments that never took place. Lopez was found to be the lead in securing a straw owner, controlling bank accounts and directing fraudulent clinic operations. Since mid-2012, 60 arrests have occurred involving accident participants, recruiters and office personnel of these fraudulent accident clinics. Investigations continue and additional arrests are expected.
Assistant State Attorney Joe Licandro of the 4th Judicial Circuit prosecuted the charges against Lopez, who was found guilty of schemes to defraud, insurance fraud and participation in a staged accident. The total amount received after billing by the clinic was in excess of $240,000.
Anyone with information involving 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 $342,000 to more than 50 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 scheme.
Insurance Agent Arrested for Fraud
Florida CFO Atwater on Monday announced the arrest of Leon Mobley, 45, a licensed insurance agent in Wellington, for allegedly submitting false and forged wind mitigation verification inspection forms on behalf of clients to obtain discounted homeowners premiums.
“Floridians place their trust in the hands of insurance agents and a fraudulent policy can devastate not only a consumer’s financial security but also their confidence in the insurance process,” said CFO Atwater. “My office will continue to ensure that licensed insurance agents in Florida are held to the highest standards of honesty and integrity.”
In July, a consumer notified the Department of Financial Services that Mobley had allegedly submitted a fraudulent wind mitigation form to her insurance company without
her prior knowledge or approval. Subsequent investigations identified two homeowners who received premium discounts on their homeowners insurance policies based on wind mitigation inspections that never took place. The forms contained forged homeowner and inspector signatures. Mobley was charged with filing a false and fraudulent insurance claim and uttering forged instruments. Both are third degree felonies.
Mobley was booked into Palm Beach County Jail. If convicted, he faces up to 5 years in prison and possible action against his insurance license.
Florida Economic Briefs
In the 3rd quarter, Florida ranked among the top 10 states for venture capital, reporting $104.2 million in venture capital investment made in 12 deals statewide. Florida currently ranks 10th in the nation for the amount of venture capital invested, which is a
two-spot drop from the previous quarter when Florida ranked eighth. Yet, Florida’s top
10 ranking is much higher than it was during the same time last year when Florida ranked 22nd for venture capital investment at $29 million in Q3-2012.
Nationally, venture capital totaled $7.8 billion in the third quarter, up 12 percent over the quarter and 17 percent over the year.
For more details, go to http://www.nvca.org/.
Florida's Bottom Line website complements the
quarterly edition of the Florida's Bottom Line newsletter. When
new economic data is released, it can be found here. Florida's consumer
confidence, retail index, employment statistics and various other
resources will keep you up-to-date financially.