Volume 3 Number 26
June 26, 2006

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Methamphetamine has destroyed families and wreaked havoc on many Florida communities.  But legislation that I pushed for and Governor Jeb Bush signed into law today sends a strong message that we will not tolerate anyone manufacturing this deadly drug in our state.  

In fact, Florida is being recognized for aggressively getting in front of what has become an epidemic in other states, and that is a direct result of the governor’s leadership in creating the Office of Drug Control (ODC), state lawmakers and the efforts of our first responders who are fighting against this evil drug.  

Last summer, I voiced my concern and called for action to protect communities as our State Fire Marshal’s Office was seeing an escalation in the number of meth lab fires and explosions.  Over several months, we worked with various stakeholders to identify solutions – solutions that today become a part of our response to this deadly drug. 

I commend Representative Faye Culp and Senator Carey Baker for recognizing the urgency of these measures and for being effective advocates for this legislation. 

This is a fine example of government responding quickly to a critical need and protecting Florida’s families and communities.   



 

GALLAGHER COMMENDS GOVERNOR’S SIGNING OF BILLS TO FIGHT METHAMPHETAMINE, INSURANCE FRAUD

Tom Gallagher, Florida’s chief financial officer, hailed legislation that Governor Jeb Bush signed as a tremendous step toward making Florida’s communities safer from methamphetamine and meth labs and also reining in auto insurance fraud. Gallagher, who oversees two law enforcement agencies involved in these issues, pursued the legislation and said legislators are to be commended for taking these bold but necessary steps.

“Methamphetamine devastates families and communities, and this legislation will significantly bolster our ability to protect Floridians from this evil drug,” Gallagher said. “The anti-fraud legislation will allow us to continue an aggressive crackdown on auto fraud that already has led to increased arrests and jail time and reductions in premiums in the last three years. This legislation is a big win for the people of Florida.”

House Bill 1325, sponsored by Rep. Faye Culp and Sen. Carey Baker, authorizes the immediate removal of children found in methamphetamine labs, allows courts to withhold bond for meth manufacturers, and extends greater protections to emergency responders injured while responding to meth labs. House Bill 561, sponsored by Rep. David Rivera and Sen. J.D. Alexander, tightens the grip on fraud artists who steal from Florida’s hard-working families by staging or fabricating auto crashes and making fraudulent auto insurance claims.

The State Fire Marshal’s Office has responded to more than 50 meth lab fires and explosions in the last two years. And, in conjunction with the Multi-Jurisdictional Counter Drug Task Force, the State Fire Marshal’s Office has helped educate and prepare hundreds of Florida emergency responders to respond to the dangers these labs pose. More than 1,000 responders in 16 states, including Florida, have been injured responding to meth labs in the past five years, and nearly half of all children found in meth labs test positive for having the drug in their blood. CONTINUED


 

 

GALLAGHER URGES FLORIDIANS TO CELEBRATE SAFELY

Florida’s Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Tom Gallagher is urging Floridians to think about fire safety as they make their Fourth of July plans. In Florida, only sparklers are legal for the general public to use without a permit, so Gallagher said citizens who want to see fireworks should attend a professional show.

“The Fourth of July is a great time for families and friends to relax together and reflect on the freedoms we all enjoy,” Gallagher said. “But fireworks can be dangerous, especially to children, and for that reason items that launch or explode are illegal in Florida.”

For a list of hundreds of sparklers that are legal to use in Florida, as well as safety tips, visit the State Fire Marshal’s web site at www.MyFloridaCFO.com/sfm/.

Illegal fireworks include shells and mortars, multiple tube devices, Roman candles, rockets and firecrackers. Floridians should not sign “waivers” in order to purchase fireworks. Signing a waiver will not clear you of responsibility should you be caught using them, and using fireworks illegally is a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. If you cause a fire or damage someone’s property, you could also be held personally liable.  CONTINUED


 

CFO GALLAGHER RELEASES ANNUAL TOP 10 FRAUD LIST

2005-2006 Top 10 cases add up to nearly $15 million in losses

Tom Gallagher, Florida’s chief financial officer, released the Department of Financial Services’ annual Top 10 Fraud List summarizing 10 of the costliest or boldest securities, financial and insurance fraud scams investigated by the department’s Division of Insurance Fraud (DIF) and resulting in convictions in the fiscal year that began July 1, 2005, and ends June 30.  These 10 cases represent nearly $15 million in fraud.  The list is being released as part of Insurance Fraud Prevention Week in Florida, which continues through Saturday. 

 “The department is committed to tracking down and rooting out fraud to protect the citizens of Florida,” said Gallagher, who oversees the department and the DIF.  “We are proud that our enforcement efforts have led to lower auto and workers’ compensation premiums as well as higher rates of incarceration, and we will continue to aggressively pursue these criminals.”

Since last July 1, the department’s fraud division has made more than 740 arrests and won more than 560 convictions.   Convictions are up 70 percent over the previous year, and jail time is up more than 25 percent. Gallagher said that is due to hard-hitting investigations, stronger penalties, and two prosecutors dedicated to auto insurance fraud.  CONTINUED