FLORIDA CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER ALEX SINK'S WEEKLY NEWSLETTER
Volume 4, Number 4, January 26, 2007
This week, the Legislature passed and the Governor signed
a bill that will bring meaningful rate relief to many Floridians
suffering from skyrocketing insurance premiums. Through a combination of
efforts including expanding the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund,
repealing onerous and unfounded rate increases, and giving consumers
more choices in coverage, Florida’s homeowners should begin to feel a
sigh of relief in the coming months.
One of the reasons we were able to help Floridians was by harnessing the
power of bipartisanship. Democrats and Republicans worked together to
put the people of Florida first, and that’s the way it should be here in
our Capitol. I was honored to work with fine leaders in both the House
and Senate, and the Governor, to develop thoughtful reform that would
not risk the fiscal health of our state.
I look forward to working with the Legislature in the regular session
amid this new spirit of cooperation. Floridians deserve nothing less.
FLORIDA CABINET MEETS TUESDAY, JANUARY 30
Resolution: a formal statement of policy, opinion, will, belief, intent or
appreciation voted by an official body or assembled group.
Florida Cabinet confers honor and appreciation at each meeting to deserving
Floridians and worthwhile ideas. At Tuesday's Cabinet meeting, Chief
Financial Officer Alex Sink will present two resolutions -- one in
appreciation of retiring state employee Hamilton “Buck” Oven, and one to
help spread the word about the
Earned Income Tax Credit available to
low-income workers through the IRS.
CFO SINK ANNOUNCES THREE-DAY OPERATION TO
ARREST DOZENS OF INDIVIDUALS ON INSURANCE FRAUD CHARGES
Culminating several months-long investigations, dozens of individuals from
Pensacola to Miami will be arrested for insurance fraud schemes that totaled
at least $1 million. Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink announced the
three-day operation as it kicked off today, stating she wants to send a
strong message that Florida will not tolerate this costly crime.
The charges stem from investigations by the Department of Financial
Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud, a sworn law enforcement agency
responsible for the investigation of insurance fraud. The division made
nearly 800 insurance fraud-related arrests in the last fiscal year.
“Those who commit insurance fraud may think they are only hurting insurance
companies, but insurance fraud causes real financial pain and hurts
families, businesses and communities,” said Sink, who as CFO oversees the
department (DFS). “Anyone found guilty of insurance fraud in Florida will
pay for their crime.”
The operation is targeting nearly 80 individuals wanted on criminal charges
ranging from staging automobile accidents to grand theft, and the arrests
will continue through Thursday. The division’s operation is being organized
through the division’s regional offices. The charges are being prosecuted by
state attorney offices in the various jurisdictions. Potential sentences
could range from five years to 30 years in prison per count.
The majority of the charges fall largely under workers’ compensation fraud,
including both claim fraud and employer fraud. The second-largest category
of charges involves auto insurance fraud, from staged accidents to
fraudulent Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance claims. Some of the
cases involve insurance agents accused of defrauding customers and several
homeowner claim fraud cases.
Insurance fraud in Florida has been estimated to cost Floridians as much as
$1,400 a year. Depending on the estimated loss amount, the department will
pay up to $25,000 for information directly leading to an arrest and
conviction. To report insurance fraud, call the department’s Fraud Fighters
hotline at 1-800-378-0445 or log on to www.MyFloridaCFO.com/fraud. Complaints can
be tracked online.
SOUTH FLORIDA FISHING BOAT CAPTAIN REELS IN A BIG ONE
WITH UNCLAIMED PROPERTY PROGRAM
For most of his life, Jay Cohen has made a living
catching big fish or helping other people catch them.
Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink helped the
South Florida fishing boat captain reel in a big one
when she delivered a check from stock accounts held by
Cohen and his sister. The stocks were reported last
August to the Department of Financial Services as
The department’s Bureau of Unclaimed Property identified
Cohen, of Fort Lauderdale, and his sister Leigh, of
North Carolina, as the rightful owners and helped them
get the money back for free. Jay Cohen said they do not
want to disclose the amount of money, but he was more
than happy to meet CFO Sink today on his day off to pick
up the check. They met at the Pier 66 Marina in Fort
“This may be one of the more fun aspects of my job,”
said Sink, who as CFO oversees the department. “We are
holding more than one-billion dollars’ worth of cash and
property for Floridians who have lost track of it, and
we are eager to return it to the rightful owners.”
Jay Cohen operates Captain Jay’s Reel Adventure
Charters, Inc., out of Miami. The money the Cohens are
claiming comes from Manulife Financial Inc. stock the
two owned. The Cohens filed their claim in November
after the Bureau contacted them.
The Bureau is currently holding 7.8 million accounts
statewide, including nearly 1.14 million accounts in
South Florida. In Palm Beach County, 231,419 accounts
are valued at $82.6 million; in Broward County, 402,273
accounts are valued at more than $125 million; and in
Miami-Dade County, 545,601 accounts are valued at more
than $188 million. These accounts can be claimed for
free by logging on to www.fltreasurehunt.org or by
calling the Bureau at 1-88-VALUABLE.
Unclaimed cash and proceeds from the auction of
abandoned property go the Florida Public School Trust
Fund. The Bureau has transferred more than $1.5 billion
to the school trust fund since the program’s inception
in 1961. Claims, however, can be made at any time.
CFO SINK ANNOUNCES NEW ONLINE SEARCH FOR CONTRACTORS PARTICIPATING IN THE
MY SAFE FLORIDA HOME PROGRAM
Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink Wednesday announced the launch of a new
online search tool that will help Florida homeowners participating in the My
Safe Florida Home program find approved contractors. By visiting
www.mysafefloridahome.com, homeowners will be able to search by county or
type of work performed from a universe of nearly 150 contractors approved to
participate with the program.
“Today we are giving Florida homeowners the tools to make informed choices
about the professionals they hire to help them improve their homes,” said
CFO Sink, who oversees the Department of Financial Services. “Floridians
looking to harden their homes can turn to the My Safe Florida Home website
and know that the contractors who participate with us are properly trained
to perform essential hurricane mitigation improvements.”
Nearly 14,000 Florida homeowners have received a free home inspection and
are currently in the process of receiving their completed inspection reports
with recommended home improvements. To be eligible for matching grants of up
to $5,000, homeowners choosing to make one or more of the recommended
mitigation techniques must use a participating contractor.
To become a participating contractor with the My Safe Florida Home program,
all contractors must be licensed by the Florida Department of Business and
Professional Regulation or by a local authority for the work that they are
performing through the program. All participating contractors must also
complete or already have completed a four-hour course on residential
wind-resistance retrofit improvements. As additional contractors qualify,
the website will be updated regularly to reflect the current approved list
of approved contractors.
Upon submitting their applications to partner with the My Safe Florida Home
program, all contractors are screened to ensure that they have workers’
compensation insurance coverage. CFO Sink further urges all homeowners who
choose a contractor from the website to verify that they have current
workers’ compensation insurance coverage and licensure before entering into
Free four-hour courses for contractors on the standards and techniques of
wind-resistance retrofit improvements are now available. For more
information on these courses, contractors should log on to http://www.mysafefloridahome.com/forretrofitpros.asp.
The program, funded with $250 million by the Florida Legislature, was
created to better protect Floridians by strengthening their homes against
hurricanes and to reduce the state’s exposure to hurricane damage.
MAILING OF MITIGATION GRANT APPLICATIONS TO HOMEOWNERS ANNOUNCED BY CFO
Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink announced that inspection reports
and applications for matching grants are being mailed to homeowners who
received free home inspections during the pilot phase of the My Safe Florida
Home program. Nearly 14,000 Florida homeowners received free home
inspections during the program’s pilot phase last year.
“I am excited that thousands of homeowners will soon be receiving valuable
information about how they can harden their homes,” said Sink, who oversees
the Department of Financial Services. “The 2007 hurricane season is rapidly
approaching, and we want to arm these homeowners as quickly as possible with
the information they need to protect their homes against the devastating
effects of hurricanes.”
The inspection reports and matching grant applications will be mailed over
the next several weeks. Inspection reports provide the following information
to homeowners: their home’s current strength against a hurricane on a 0-100
scale, ways that homeowners can improve their home’s strength, a cost
estimate for the recommended improvements, and the amount of savings
homeowners can anticipate on their wind insurance premiums if the
improvements are made.
Homeowners choosing to make the recommended improvements are eligible to
receive matching grants from the state up to $5,000. The grant funds must be
used to implement improvements specified in the inspection reports, and
homeowners will be required to use participating contractors. The list of
participating contractors, organized by county and type of work performed,
will be available on-line at www.mysafefloridahome.com, beginning later this
The My Safe Florida program is currently being evaluated and in the process
of statewide expansion, after which the application process for free home
inspections will resume. However, Floridians looking to harden their homes
now can learn more about recommended home improvements at
The program, funded with $250 million by the Florida Legislature, was
created to better protect Floridians by strengthening their homes against
hurricanes and to reduce the state’s exposure to hurricane damage. To be
eligible for a free home inspection, Floridians must live in a
single-family, site-built home with an insured value of $500,000 or less and
have a valid homestead exemption. Documents verifying this information must
be submitted with a completed application.
CFO SINK SUSPENDS
BROWARD INSURANCE AGENT; REQUIRES RESTITUTION OF MORE THAN $100,000
TALLAHASSEE — Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink has suspended the license of
a South Florida insurance agent for twisting and misrepresenting the terms
and conditions of life insurance and annuity products, scheming customers
out of thousands of investment dollars. He is now required to pay over
$100,000 in restitution to those consumers.
“The perpetrators of these crimes defraud Floridians out of millions of
dollars,” said CFO Sink, who oversees the Florida Department of Financial
Services. “We will not tolerate crimes against our consumers and I want to
let these crooks know that we are coming after them.”
Following an investigation, the Department of Financial Services filed
administrative charges against Shawn Roberts, 47, of Plantation, alleging
that he placed his clients into life insurance and annuity products that
were unsuitable for them, given their risk tolerance and investment
objectives. Misrepresentation of insurance and annuity products may include
not only misrepresenting the terms and conditions of a product or
transaction, but also failing to disclose material information about those
products or transactions. Investigators say that Roberts did both, which
resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses to consumers,
including surrender charges or other penalties. Roberts, in turn, generated
nearly $73,000 in commissions from the sale of the products.
In lieu of an administrative hearing, Roberts agreed to a settlement
involving suspension and restitution to consumers. Roberts’ insurance
license and appointments have been suspended for nine months, and he has
agreed to pay eight consumers restitution totaling in excess of $107,000.
Additionally, Roberts must pay an administrative fine in the amount of
$2,500 to help defray the department’s costs associated with its
The Florida Department of Financial Services’ Division of Agent and Agency
Services, Bureau of Investigation, investigates various types of insurance
violations by agents including health, life, auto, property, workers’
compensation, bail bond and title insurance. To file a complaint against an
agent call 1-800-342-2762 or go to www.MyFloridaCFO.com.
ARE ENCOURAGED TO TUNE IN TO TELEMUNDO TAX INFORMATION PROGRAM
TALLAHASSEE —Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink is encouraging
Florida’s Spanish-speaking residents to tune in to the national
television network Telemundo this Sunday, January 28, for a special
one-hour tax program with the Internal Revenue Service. The program,
“Los Impuestos y Usted” (“Taxes and You”), will air at 3:30 p.m.
Eastern and Pacific Time and 2:30 p.m. Central and Mountain Time.
“Los Impuestos y Usted” will focus on a variety of tax issues,
including the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for low-income
taxpayers, electronic filing (IRS e-file), Free File and tips on how
to choose a tax preparer. IRS experts also will discuss taxpayers’
rights and how to obtain help with tax questions.
“I appreciate Telemundo sharing this timely information with
viewers,” CFO Sink said. “I encourage residents to tune in and take
notes so they can be sure that they are paying no more than their
For more information in Spanish about the IRS, log on to http://www.irs.gov/espanol
or toll-free by telephone at 1-800-829-1040, extension 8.
Consumer Services HelpLine (800) 342-2762