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
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.
In addition to authorizing the Department of Children and Families to begin
dependency proceedings for the immediate removal of children found at meth
labs and allowing courts to hold meth producers without bail while awaiting
trial, House Bill 561 enhances criminal penalties when firefighters or other
emergency response personnel are injured or killed while responding to meth
labs (third-degree felony if injured; second-degree felony if killed or
severely injured) and prevents them from having life or health insurance
canceled if they test positive for meth as a result of performing their
“The number of meth labs found in Florida has increased by 1,100 percent in
five years,, and that means more children, first responders and communities
are at risk,” Sen. Baker said. “We must do all we can to fight back against
this insidious drug.”
Rep. Culp said the legislation builds on successful strategies already put
in place by Gov. Bush and the Governor’s Office of Drug Control. “For those
who still have not gotten the message that we don’t want meth in our state,
they will know we mean business when they are left to sit behind bars.”
Senate Bill 1596 enhances penalties for the newest twists on auto insurance
fraud – “phantom” and “paper” auto accidents that never actually occur –
making either a second-degree felony punishable by a two-year minimum
mandatory prison sentence.
Florida law requires drivers to carry a minimum of $10,000 in Personal
Injury Protection (or PIP) coverage and $10,000 in property-damage liability
coverage. Many auto insurance fraud cases involve unscrupulous lawyers,
doctors and clinic owners who illegally bill for services covered by PIP,
which provides coverage for medical bills from an auto accident, regardless
of who is at fault.
Auto insurance fraud has been estimated to cost the average Florida family
as much as $250 a year, but tough legislation passed in 2001 and 2003 in
tandem with increased arrests and prosecutions have led to lower premiums in
"Fraud has driven up insurance rates for far too long. This legislation
sends the message that fraud will no longer be tolerated," said Sen.
Alexander. "Those who participate in auto insurance fraud will pay for their
Rep. Rivera said the legislation also will help fight insurance fraud by
providing for a forfeiture fund to help finance ongoing investigations into
“The work being done by the Division of Insurance Fraud and law enforcement
agencies around the state to combat insurance fraud is commendable,” Rep.
Rivera said. “As a result of aggressive investigations and prosecutions,
auto insurance premiums are decreasing and that’s good news for Florida’s
This corresponds with a 2003 law that established a two-year minimum
sentence for anyone organizing or participating in an actual staged auto
crash. The legislation also:
• Provides for revocation of the driver’s license of anyone convicted of
auto insurance fraud.
• Makes it a third-degree felony for any service provider, such as a clinic
or body shop, to waive insurance deductibles as a general business practice.
Waiving deductibles makes it easier for individuals to profit from insurance
• Requires medical clinics to post the state’s Fraud Fighters hotline and
reward program information.
• Clarifies that kickbacks for patient referrals are illegal whether the
patient is being referred to or from a medical clinic, and provides that
patients themselves may be punished for soliciting kickbacks for their
cooperation in fraudulent billing schemes against the insurer.
Gallagher has overseen the department’s Division of Insurance Fraud for the
past five years, during which time the department has made more than 3,200
insurance fraud arrests including more than 1,000 PIP fraud arrests. The
division has consistently led the nation’s insurance fraud bureaus in
arrests and convictions. The new legislation becomes effective on July 1,