Consumer eViews
FLORIDA CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER TOM GALLAGHER'S WEEKLY NEWSLETTER

Volume 1, Number 39, September 27, 2004          

Mother Nature has our state in her sights once again.  Hurricane Jeanne has blown through Florida with destructive force, impacting more than half of the state.  I recognize that many of our residents are extremely tired and frustrated, but I am confident that we will band together and get through this difficult time.

 

For the first time in our state’s history, four storms have come ashore in a single hurricane season.  As resources are stretched thin, it is important that all of our residents remain patient as it may take time for resources to arrive.

 

I am committed to making sure that our citizens receive the assistance they need as quickly as possible.  Federal, state and local governments are working together to rapidly get relief to affected areas.

 

It is impossible to predict when and where hurricanes will impact our state.  But we have already learned a tremendous amount this hurricane season, and those lessons have helped guide decisions being made every day to ensure Floridians recover and rebuild.

 

Our thoughts and prayers are with you.

                        -- Tom Gallagher


GALLAGHER OFFERS INSURANCE ADVICE TO STORM VICTIMS

An estimated one in five Floridians have experienced damage to their homes or businesses from the recent back-to-back hurricanes. In the wake of Hurricane Jeanne, estimated to inflict as much as $8 billion in insured damages, Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher offered recommendations to storm victims seeking insurance reimbursements for property damage.

“Many storm victims were battered by Hurricane Frances and are now trying to pick up the pieces and start rebuilding. Going through another devastating storm can feel overwhelming and we want citizens to know we are here to help,” said Gallagher, who oversees the state Department of Financial Services. “The first step for Floridians whose homes have been hit or sustained additional damage is to immediately report it to their insurance company. If possible, make temporary repairs to prevent further damage.”

Gallagher also offered the following “after the storm” recommendations:

  • If forced to evacuate your home, let your agent or insurance company know your temporary forwarding address and phone number.
  • If you make emergency repairs, document the damage and repairs in writing and with receipts and photos.
  • Maintain copies of your household inventory and other documentation, including photos, to assist the adjuster in assessing the value of the destroyed property.
  • Verify that the insurance adjuster you are dealing with is licensed by calling the department’s hurricane hotline at 1-800-22STORM.
  • Beware of fly-by-night repair businesses. Hire licensed and reputable service people.

Gallagher said he also recognizes the tremendous challenges in assisting Floridians with insurance claims and problems in almost all of the state’s 67 counties.

“Considering the volume of claims - nearly one million filed to date - from Hurricanes Charley, Frances and Ivan, my first priority is to do whatever is necessary to facilitate the payment of insurance claims to Floridians in a timely manner,” said Gallagher.


CFO GALLAGHER ANNOUNCES TWO MORE ARRESTS OF UNLICENSED ADJUSTERS IN FT. MYERS AREA

Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher announced that two more unlicensed adjusters are off the streets in the Ft. Myers area.

James John Tomlinson, 42, and James Stephen Hudgens, 55, both working for Ft. Lauderdale-based Seabreeze Public Adjusters Inc., were arrested today on one charge each of working as a public adjuster without a license. If convicted on the third-degree felony, they each could face statutory sentences of up to five years in prison in addition to fines of up to $5,000. They have been booked into the Lee County Jail.

“Storm victims must be sure that they are dealing with a legitimate adjuster and verify by calling the department’s storm helpline,” Gallagher said. “It is unfortunate, but disasters bring out the best and the worst in people.”

As CFO, Gallagher oversees the Department of Financial Services, which includes the Division of Insurance Fraud and the Division of Agent and Agency Services, Bureau of Investigation, which made today’s arrest. Gallagher also served as Florida’s Insurance Commissioner when Hurricane Andrew struck in 1992. He said he hopes that the quick and visible mobilization of department fraud investigators to storm-damaged communities will work as a deterrent to unlicensed activity.

Investigators tracked Tomlinson and Hudgens by their advertising signs located around neighborhoods in Charlotte County. The signs read: “Seabreeze Public Adjusters Inc. Charley got you down? Let us handle your claim.” Corporation records show that Seabreeze was established Aug. 19, six days after Hurricane Charley slammed into Florida’s southwest coast.

Both Tomlinson and Hudgens had their Florida public adjuster licenses cancelled in December 2002 after their required bonds lapsed.

Gallagher urges storm victims to verify the licensure of any adjuster before signing any agreement or contract by calling the department’s toll-free storm hotline at 1-800-22-STORM (1-800-227-8676) or by logging on to www.MyFloridaCFO.com.


NUMBER OF FLORIDA WORKPLACE FATALITIES DROPS IN 2003

TALLAHASSEE-According to a joint federal and state survey, Florida workplaces had seven fewer fatal accidents in 2003 than the previous year, including a decrease in the number of Hispanic workers killed.

The Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), conducted annually by the Department of Financial Services in partnership with the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, reported a total of 354 work-related fatalities in 2002, compared to 347 in 2003. Fatalities among Hispanic workers decreased in 2003 to 90 deaths.

While, the construction industry continues to record the highest number of fatal injuries of any major industry, the number decreased by six to 93 over last year’s survey which recorded 99 construction deaths.

The CFOI uses a variety of state and federal data sources to identify, verify and profile work-related fatalities. The census is intended to be a tool for safety promotion, training, resource allocation, standards assessment and hazard alertness.

Visit www.MyFloridaCFO.com/wc and scroll to “Breaking News” to view the complete Florida statistics from 2003.


MORTGAGE BROKER ARRESTED FOR MISREPRESENTING PROPERTY VALUES

TAMPA-A local mortgage broker was arrested Thursday on charges he bought and sold real estate using false documents.

Sean P. Teelucksingh, 30, of Redington Shores, was arrested September 16 following a two-year joint investigation by the Florida Department of Financial Services, Office of Financial Regulation, and the FBI. He faces federal wire fraud charges, including conspiracy to commit mail fraud.

Teelucksingh allegedly purchased property using straw buyers and false paperwork to misrepresent property values and turn the properties over at a profit. His fraudulent deals netted over $65,000. He faces up to 5 years in prison if convicted.

Florida's Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher reminds Floridians they can call the department's toll-free consumer hotline at 1-800-342-2762 to report financial fraud.


TAMPA MAN CHARGED WITH SELLING UNREGISTERED SECURITIES

Jason E. Franklin will soon have to answer for more than a pay phone.

Franklin, 30, of Redington Shores, FL, allegedly bilked an elderly Florida woman out of $126,000 in a scheme to get her to invest in an unregistered pay phone business.

Franklin was arrested September 10 in Berchtree, Missouri, following a joint investigation by the Office of Financial Regulation and the Pinellas County State Attorney's Office. He will be extradited to face charges relating to the sale of unregistered securities.

According to investigators, Franklin sold the ETS Payphone Investment Program to an elderly woman, who liquidated her existing investments and took out a reverse mortgage on her house to finance the deal. Franklin convinced her that the investment was guaranteed and would pay a higher return.

Florida's Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher reminds consumers to be wary of "sure things" when it comes to investing.

Consumers can call the Department of Financial Services' consumer helpline toll-free at 1-800-342-2762 to check licensing and complaint histories for securities brokers and dealers.



Consumer Services HelpLine
(800)342-2762.