Dear Fellow Floridians:
As your Chief Financial Officer, guarding taxpayer dollars and ensuring they are used in the most appropriate and efficient manner are top priorities of mine. When hard-working Floridians are cheated and taken advantage of, it’s unconscionable and intolerable. My Office of Fiscal Integrity does the important work of righting these wrongs.
The Office works tirelessly to protect taxpayer dollars from abuse by individuals engaging in misappropriation or misuse of state assets. These dedicated professionals relentlessly search for those individuals engaged in criminal acts, including contract fraud committed through double or false billing, electronic funds transfer fraud, unclaimed property fraud and countless other schemes. These fraudsters are using increasingly complex and sophisticated means to exploit the state, and our Department works day in and day out to stay ahead of those who wish to cheat the system.
Many of the investigations carried out by OFI are generated internally; however, referrals from state agencies’ Inspectors General are investigated as well. In fact, referrals have increased by 40 percent in the last five years. One such referral recently led to the conviction of a Fort Myers man for misappropriating more than $900,000 dollars, including state funds, and I am proud of our team’s efforts to
"follow the money" in this complex investigation. We all win when these fraudsters are taken off the streets and out of our pockets.
I recognize the importance of each and every tax dollar, and I remain committed to taking all steps necessary to preserve the integrity of the state’s funds.
To report fraud, waste or abuse of state resources visit
www.MyFloridaCFO.com or contact the Office of Fiscal Integrity at (850) 413-5514.
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida
A- Grade for Florida for Transparency in PIRG’s 2014 Following the Money Report
U.S. Public Interest Research Group’s (PIRG) 2014 Following the Money report gave Florida a grade of A-minus for overall transparency based on the Department of Financial Services’ Transparency Florida website. Florida ranked third in the nation once again and CFO Atwater remains committed to continuously improving government transparency and accountability.
"PIRG’s A- rating is affirmation of the strides taken to make transparency and government accountability a standard in our state," CFO Atwater said. "Florida is now recognized as a leading state in the nation for transparency, and I am proud of the work we’ve accomplished in moving the state forward to ensure the integrity of taxpayers’ dollars."
Jacksonville Beach Man Arrested on Charges of Insurance Fraud
Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater announced the arrest of Chiropractor Steven Rhodes, owner of Ocean View Health, Inc. in Jacksonville Beach, for fraudulently billing for services and allowing unlicensed staff to perform medical treatments.
"This kind of fraudulent activity places honest, hard-working Floridians at risk not only financially, but also physically," said CFO Atwater.
"I am proud of our investigative team for uncovering this scam."
The investigation, led by the Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud, revealed that Rhodes was inflating
the number of treatments and submitting fee slips for treatments never performed. Among the insurance companies affected by this crime are Kemper, State Farm, Nationwide, Esurance, Progressive, United Health, and Blue Cross Blue Shield. Rhodes was arrested and if convicted, faces a maximum of five years per count.
Man Convicted of Misappropriating More than $900,000, Including State Funds
Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater announced the conviction of Robert Michael Eugene
"Gene" Bruist, 37, of Fort Myers, for the misappropriation of more than $900,000 in funds intended for use by the now defunct Center for Independent Living of Southwest Florida (CILSWFL), a local non-profit that was providing services to persons with disabilities in Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry and Lee counties.
"Stealing from hard-working, law-abiding taxpayers is an intolerable act of selfishness, and I applaud the investigators and the jury for making sure justice was served," said CFO Atwater.
"The Center for Independent Living provided a valuable service to the residents
of Southwest Florida, and this man’s careless actions cheated them out of the
assistance they deserved."
This conviction is the product of a joint investigation launched by CFO Atwater’s Office of Fiscal Integrity and the Florida Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General after the center was unexpectedly closed due to a lack of operational funds. The investigation revealed that Bruist stole state money, as well as other funds received from sources including federal grants, non-profit grants and individual donations, for his own personal use to fund an extravagant lifestyle that included international travel.
Bruist, the former CILSWFL executive director, was convicted on three felony charges, which included communications fraud, 1st degree grand theft and aggravated white collar crime. Sentencing is set for May 12. He faces up to 65 years in prison. The office of State Attorney Stephen Russell of the 20th Judicial Circuit prosecuted the case.
Florida Economic Briefs
U.S. adds 192,000 jobs in March; unemployment rate holds steady at 6.7 percent
March 2014 saw the US economy add a net 192,000 new non-farm payrolls as the U.S. unemployment rate remained unchanged at 6.7 percent. March net payroll growth was slightly above the 12-month average of 183,000 net new payrolls per month, and revisions of previous months indicate that there has been greater strength in the labor markets in 2014 than previously reported (January jobs were revised up by 15,000 jobs to 144,000, and February was revised up by 24,000 jobs to 197,000 net new jobs).
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Small business optimism rebounds in March; expectations concerning sales increase
The National Federation of Independent Business’s (NFIB) optimism index picked up to 93.4 in March after dropping to 91.4 in February, as small business owners improved their outlook on future demand. Expected real sales volume posted a strong 9 point gain, rising to a net 12 percent of owners.
Source: National Federation of Independent Business
Explore the latest edition of
Florida’s Bottom Line. Inside, you’ll find expert insight on
Florida’s economy, finances, workforce and housing market in the year ahead.