Volume 2 Number 3
January 17, 2005










TEXT VERSION


A special committee formed by legislative leaders to pursue hurricane insurance reforms met for the first time last week. Our office participated and offered several recommendations to committee members. Let me share our recommendations with you. 

The total number of claims filed to date from four back-to-back hurricanes is 1.5 million.   

The 2004 hurricane season struck with Hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne inflicting damage in 54 of Florida’s 67 counties within 45 days, with both Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne following very similar tracks with virtually identical landfall points.   

Many storm victims were blindsided by the initial 2 to 5 percent deductibles that had been established.  Currently, 64 percent of residential policies are written with a two percent or higher deductible.  Consumers deserve to have a choice in the amount of deductible they will pay. I recommend: 

·         Giving consumers a choice in what they will pay for a deductible, from 1 to 5 percent. 

·         Requiring companies to have consumers “sign off” in their policy on a clear calculation of how much their deductible will be.  The goal is to make sure that individuals are made aware of their deductible amount at the time they purchase their policy. 

·         Setting up hurricane savings accounts so homeowners, and condominium owners, can put money aside tax-free to cover deductible expenses, repair costs or to strengthen their home. 

Due to the widespread damage caused by the four storms, many residents will not obtain repairs for months due to the sheer volume of repairs needed and the lack of contractors available to do repairs.  There is a growing concern among homeowners that when their insurance policy comes up for renewal, their property will be uninsurable until repairs are complete.

Emergency rules are currently in place preventing insurance companies from canceling or non-renewing insurance policies for hurricane victims whose homes have yet to be repaired.  I recommend:

·        Amending Florida law to prohibit insurers from canceling or non-renewing a homeowner whose property has been damaged by a hurricane until 60 days after repairs are completed.

As the select committee continues deliberations, I plan to pursue additional reforms to help protect homeowners and to improve the availability of insurance coverage. I welcome your feedback as we move through the process. E-mail your ideas and suggestions to tom.gallagher@MyFloridaCFO.com.

My congratulations to our Department of Financial Services Law Enforcement Officers of the Year, Tommy Clark and Chris Scovotto.

Our masthead for January is a view of the County Courthouse located downtown in beautiful Madison County, Florida.
 


 

DEPARTMENT LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS HONORED

Two law enforcement officers with the Department of Financial Services were among 14 nominees for the Attorney General’s Law Enforcement Officer of the Year 2004.  A ceremony was held Tuesday on the steps of the Old Capitol.

Investigator Henry “Tommy” Clark, left, of the Division of Insurance Fraud and Detective Chris Scovotto, right, of the Division of State Fire Marshal, Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations, were chosen by their fellow officers.

Tallahassee Police Officer Chuck Perry was chosen among the nominees as the Attorney General’s Law Enforcement Officer of the Year. CONTINUED
 


 

 

FLORIDA INSURANCE AGENT ACCUSED OF STEALING PREMIUMS, PUTTING UNINSURED TRUCK DRIVERS ON ROAD

An insurance agent who allegedly failed to place auto and general liability coverage for at least 11 Florida trucking companies was arrested in Georgia on an outstanding warrant. 

Kim Laustra, 43, was an agent at the Medley, Florida, agency Transportation Insurance Consultants, Inc., 9657 NW South River Dr., at the time these alleged incidents occurred.  She was arrested Monday afternoon in Ludowici, Georgia, by the Long County Sheriff’s Office.  She was wanted on 12 felony charges following an investigation by the Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud.  Investigators said she misappropriated more than $93,000 in premiums and issued fraudulent insurance certificates. 

“Such actions create a serious risk not only for the individual who sought to purchase the coverage but everyone sharing the road with these uninsured drivers,” said Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher, who oversees the Department of Financial Services.  “We will pursue the highest criminal penalty under the law and if she is convicted we will revoke her agent license.” CONTINUED


 

 

TSUNAMI DISASTER RELIEF FRAUD ALERT

Washington
, D.C. - The FBI is alerting the public to a variety of scams currently being facilitated online involving the solicitation of additional relief funds for the victims of the recent Tsunami disaster. The FBI, through the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), has received reports of websites being established purportedly to assist with collection and relief efforts. Complaints submitted to the IC3 have identified several schemes that involve both unsolicited in-coming emails (SPAM), as well as reports of responses to posted email addresses, to assist for a fee, in locating loved ones who may have been a victim of the disaster. A fraudulent relief donation website has also been detected containing an imbedded Trojan exploit which can infect the user's computer with a virus if accessed. CONTINUED


 

 

STATE FIRE MARSHAL’S OFFICE HOSTS
THE GREAT FLORIDA FIRE SCHOOL


If you see hundreds of firefighters putting out a fire in the central Florida community of Avon Park, don’t panic. Chances are good they started it. And don’t bother calling the police, they may be in on it.

Firefighters from throughout Florida will be gathering at the South Florida Community College as part of The Great Florida Fire School. In its eleventh year, the fire school is a traveling training program intended to save firefighters from having to travel to other programs that often can be miles away.

“We bring these professionals the same classroom and practical training that they would get at the Florida State Fire College in Ocala,” said Florida’s Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Tom Gallagher. “But by bringing the training to a community near them, it saves their departments the expense of travel and lodging and keeps them near the communities that need them.”
CONTINUED
 

 

 

 

FLDFS ARRESTS TWO MORE UNLICENSED PUBLIC ADJUSTERS

State insurance fraud investigators arrested two individuals - one in Broward County and one in Orange County - for working as public adjusters without licenses.

Arthur Lambright, owner of Lambright Claims Consultants formerly located in Miramar, and Gregory Hastings, DBA Greg Hastings Designs in Orlando, are facing felony charges. The arrests are the result of investigations by the Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud and the Division of Agent and Agency Services, Bureau of Investigations. State investigators have now arrested seven unlicensed public adjusters in the aftermath of the four back-to-back hurricanes last fall.

“We will not tolerate anyone taking advantage of our citizens, especially those who have already suffered so much because of the storms,” said Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher, who oversees the Department of Financial Services. “We will seek the highest penalty under the law if these individuals are convicted.”
CONTINUED