DFS LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER
HONORED BY ATTORNEY GENERAL
Two of the department's law enforcement officers, nominated by their
respective agencies, were recognized on Wednesday by Attorney General
Bill McCollum for outstanding work in 2006. CFO Alex Sink attended the
ceremony and joined McCollum in greeting dozens of law enforcement
officers who were on hand to support their nominees.
Lieutenant Michael Byrne, nominated by the Division of Insurance Fraud,
and Detective John Esslinger, nominated by the Bureau of Fire and Arson
Investigations, were among 13 nominees for the Office of Attorney
General's Law Enforcement Officer of the Year award.
From left: Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations Chief Bruce
Ashley, Deputy Chief Financial Officer and former Division of Insurance
Fraud Director Eric Miller, CFO Alex Sink, and Division of State Fire
Marshal Director Les M. Hallman congratulate Attorney General Officer of
the Year nominees Detective John Esslinger, Bureau of Fire and Arson
Investigations, and Lt. Michael Byrne, Division of Insurance Fraud
Lt. Byrne is among the top 10 percent of insurance
fraud detectives in Florida, and last year submitted 30 cases for
prosecution leading to 16 arrests. Further, Lt. Byrne was the lead
investigator in one of the largest staged accident rings in Pinellas
County history involving more than 30 individuals involved in a $300,000
insurance fraud scheme. Breaking the case was attributed largely to
Lieutenant Byrne’s expertise and investigative skills.
Detective Esslinger, who currently serves in Broward County, last year
earned an arson fire arrest rate 21 percent higher than the national
average. In one year alone he investigated 76 fires, 33 of which were
determined to be the result of arson. Detective Esslinger was a key
investigator in a Broward County arson case in which he determined that
a fire at a commercial dry cleaning business was set by the owner and
his son to collect on insurance claims.
The Attorney General's award was given to Detective Sergeant James R.
Contento of the Tampa Police Department. Detective Contento was
recognized for building successful community partnerships, including
coordinating a team of patrol officers to work with mall managers and
retailers in an operation credited with a more than 25 percent crime